Sign heralds long-sought slowdown

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JOHN.COSGROVE@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

Three years of campaigning have paid off following the announcement of the new permanent speed limit of 50kmh on State Highway 1 through Waihola.

Waihola Looking Forward chairman Stu Michelle said he had known something was going to happen soon.

“The giveaway was the installation of a speed monitoring and information LED panel [too-fast flashing sign],’’ Mr Michelle said.

“It has been three long years waiting and when we saw that go up, everyone started asking me was it finally going to happen.’’

From October 5, the speed limit will drop from 70kmh to 50kmh for the 1km stretch through Waihola.

The announcement last week was ‘‘really good to see’’, he said.

‘‘It seemed to take a long time but we are still very thankful the NZ Transport Agency had made up its mind, as a lot of heavy traffic used the highway, and elderly people and children here had some real trouble crossing the road at times.”

The change comes after public consultation in 2019, which attracted 158 submissions largely supporting alower speed limit.

NZTA regional relationships director Jim Harland said the new speed limit was to improve road safety and help prevent people from being killed or seriously injured.

“There’s strong community support in Waihola for this lower speed limit,’’ Mr Harland said.

‘‘Over the last decade, there have been regular discussions with residents and the local council about increases in highway speeds and traffic volumes through Waihola.’’

In 2018, a daily average of 7500 vehicles were counted on the stretch of road, up 15% on 2014.

Waihola Looking Forward, which is a residents’ association, had campaigned for several years for a 50kmh speed limit, Mr Harland said.

Waihola District School principal Sara Whitaker said many pupils’ parents had pushed for the change.

“We’re very happy it’s been reduced.’’

Taking a group of children across the road had been a difficult assignment when the limit was 70kmh, she said.

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan said lowering the speed limit was a dominant theme raised in community consultation.

“It has been an area of concern for locals for a number of years,’’ Mr Cadogan said. ‘‘This is great news.”

New speed signs will be installed before the change takes legal effect. Two further Clutha district speed reviews remain under consideration by NZTA.

A proposal for Balclutha’s southern exit would extend the existing 80kmh zone on State Highway 1 an additional 450m south, past the new Rosebank Industrial Park.

A second proposal, for Tapanui’s southern exit, would extend the existing 50kmh zone a further 200m south on State Highway 90, to allow traffic to slow before it reaches residential properties and businesses near the current sign.