Roads and rugby have my blood pressure up this week for opposite reasons. I am aghast at the Government’s radical proposals to slash speed limits on State Highway 6 between Nelson and Blenheim.
First, the good news. It was fantastic to be at the game in Blenheim to witness the Mako win. It is incredible that we are slaying the giants of New Zealand rugby like Auckland, Canterbury, and Waikato. Eleven wins on the trot has us hosting our first ever NPC final. Huge tribute to Tasman Rugby CEO Tony Lewis, Coaches Andrew Goodman, Clarke Dermody and Shane Christie, Captain David Havili and the full squad. We need to pack Trafalgar Park this Saturday night to back the Mighty Mako against the Wellington Lions. Fins Up! It will be a great night of rugby with the RWC semis – go the ABs!
My pleasure at the Mako win in Blenheim was soured driving home as I carefully assessed the proposed speed limit changes on the route. The reduction in the speed limit from 100kmp to 80 kmph on open straight stretches like from Renwick to Havelock, Havelock to Pelorous Bridge and through the Collins Valley are ridiculous.
This is all part of the Government’s anti-car crusade led by Green Party Minister Julie Anne Genter. They have increased fuel taxes three times, proposed new taxes on cars, slashed the annual investment on our state highways by 70% and are now radically reducing speed limits. I was appalled at the mind-set of Ms Genter referring to motorists as “car fascists”.
The most sensible initiative we could make to improve the safety of the Nelson-Blenheim highway is additional passing lanes. National recently funded the upgrades on Gentle Annie and Rai Saddle. I am very disappointed that the Government has just cancelled $5 million worth of further upgrades on SH6 including the resurfacing of Atawhai Drive to make it quieter and safer.
I am not opposed to all of the speed limit changes proposed. I am a big fan of the electronic variable school zone signs being proposed for Hira and Canvastown schools. They are a smart approach that dramatically reduce speed for the 30 minutes at the time when schools starts and ends. It maximises safety for children while enabling freer traffic flows during the bulk of the time.
The biggest cause of increases in our road toll has been drug impaired driving that now exceeds drunk driving. Minister Genter has a blind spot on drugged driving and has repeatedly rejected efforts by police, transport officials and myself to introduce random roadside drug testing. We also need to do better in tackling driver distractions like cellphone use ahead of across the board speed limit reductions.
These big cuts in speed limits between Nelson and Blenheim are over the top. National and I will vigorously oppose them. I strongly commend Stephanie Drewer on the petition she initiated opposing the changes. Drop into my caravan at Nelson’s Saturday Market to see the maps of the changes, to provide feedback and if you wish, to sign the petition.