Time for traffic speeds that put New Zealanders’ safety first

NZTA is updating the country’s speed-limit setting rule but is unwilling to put New Zealanders' safety first.

Instead NZTA continues to require that speed limits be a compromise between safety and efficiency1.

This has resulted in New Zealand having the highest traffic speeds and worst rates of road deaths amongst OECD nations.

Comparison between
Northern Europe and NZ

Northern Europe

New Zealand

Urban street speed limits

30 – 40 km/h

50 km/h

Rural road speed limits (one lane each way, minimal shoulder)

60 – 80 km/h

Mostly 100 km/h

Road deaths per 100,000 population pa:



Patrick Morgan of Cycling Action Network says “We have been very impressed by the Government’s recent investment in cycle trails and pathways which is getting more Kiwis active. However traffic speeds are a major concern for us.

“In the last 12 months, 37 pedestrians and 10 cyclists have been killed on NZ roads2, that’s a 60% increase over the previous 12 months which demands our urgent attention.

“Countries such as Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, Norway and Denmark have urban and rural speed limits lower that New Zealand, this is a key reason why their road deaths per capita are half ours. And instead of reducing efficiency, it can be argued their safer speeds improve efficiency due to fewer crashes, intersections flow more smoothly and more people feel safe to choose walking and cycling.”

Andy Smith of Living Streets Aotearoa says “We can save lives by reducing traffic speeds, to quote Auckland Transport ‘Speed is the single biggest road safety issue in NZ today.3

“Hence we’re urging NZTA to amend their draft Setting of Speed Limits rule to require speed limits that are ‘safe as is reasonably practicable given the road function, design, users and the surrounding land use’. This aligns with NZ's Health and Safety in the Workplace legislation, NZTA’s Speed Management Guide, and will help reduce our appalling road toll.

We encourage all New Zealanders to make a quick submission4 for a safety-first approach to Speed Limits by 5pm, Friday June 16.”


1 Definitions, Part 2 of the proposed Setting of Speed Limits Rule [2017] requirement to optimise “efficiency outcomes”

2 Source: https://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/road-deaths/toll.html

3 Auckland Transport’s website: https://at.govt.nz/driving-parking/safer-communities-roads-schools/road-safety/speeding/

Time for a "safety first" approach to speed limits

We made this submission to the Ministry of Transport for a “safety first” approach to speed limit setting. Please help this campaign by writing a letter of support to our Minister of Transport.

We are excited to see the new direction for road safety by the  Government in this letter from Minister Genter to all Councils.

Police make case for 80 km/h on our rural roads

Great to see in today’s NZ Herald…  NZ Police road policing team operations manager Inspector Peter McKennie putting the case for safer speed limits of 80 km/h on our rural roads:

McKennie says many of the countries our tourists come from have better engineered roads than ours, with more finely tuned speed limits for every portion of road.

For instance, our open roads are typically set to 100km regardless of road type, but in other parts of the world difficult sections of open road, such as winding areas, would be set to 80km instead.

“A lot of people complain because visiting drivers drive slowly and hold up traffic but quite often they are just driving at the safe and appropriate speed for the engineering of the road,” he says.

“New Zealand drivers are used to driving faster on those roads, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that those speeds are safe and appropriate for the engineering of the roads.”

This isn’t just a safer approach but a more logical one, he says. “If you are driving 80 kilometres an hour as opposed to 100 kilometres an hour, on winding roads there is probably a time difference of five minutes for every 100 kilometres you travel.”

Plus, if you drive at a slower, more steady speed you’ll save fuel too.

NZ Herald: Safe or not? The truth about tourist drivers

Media Release: Calling on Councils to implement safer rural speed limits

We’ve written to every Council in New Zealand asking them to consider implementing safer speed limits on the rural roads used by walkers, cyclists and horse riders; in particular those roads used by

Te Araroa Trail
• New Zealand Cycle Trail ‘Great Rides’ (and connecting roads)
• New Zealand Cycle Trail ‘Heartland rides
Tour Aotearoa
Horse trekking routes
• School bus routes

See our media release here.

New direction for Transport spending

The new Government has announced a change in priorities for funding of transport for the next 3 years. Active transport, public transport. safety, health and environment will become more important.

We commend the Government on this new direction, which is reinforced in this letter from Minister Genter to all Councils

NZ Herald cartoon on cycling deaths

This is how our biggest daily paper views cycling safety in NZ.

NZTA have recently disbanded their Cycling Team set up in response to the Cycle Safety Panel’s recommendations.  The Cycling Team were tasked with actioning important safety improvements for cycling.  NZTA also has done away with the Safe Routes to Schools funding.

Our letter to every Council in NZ - Safer rural speed limits please!

We’ve written to every Council in New Zealand asking them to consider implementing safer speed limits on the rural roads used by walkers, cyclists and horse riders; in particular those roads used by

Te Araroa Trail
• New Zealand Cycle Trail ‘Great Rides’ (and connecting roads)
• New Zealand Cycle Trail ‘Heartland rides
Tour Aotearoa
Horse trekking routes
• School bus routes

Please help this campaign by writing to your Council in support!

NZTA's new Speed Management Guide is soft on safer speeds

We’re campaigning for NZTA to implement safer speeds as a simple and cost-effective measure that is proven to immediately reduce deaths and serious injuries on our roads.

To make our roads safer we must adopt the European approach to speed  management of Vision Zero, which means 80 km/h on undivided rural roads, 60 km/h for unsealed roads and 30 km/h around schools, shops and community facilities.

Unfortunately NZTA’s Guide for Speed Management was established under the previous Government on they basis that there is  “no expectation there will be wholesale changes to speed limits in the short term” (Pg 6) whilst perpetrating the myth that their are “no quick fixes to our road safety challenges” (Pg  4).

Learn more about our concerns regarding NZTA’s Speed Management Guide.

We now require new leadership from the coalition Government to allow safer speed limits to be rolled out across the country.

   Email NZTA’s CEO asking NZTA to adopt a “safety first” approach to setting speed limits.

Rhys Jones: Cars are to us what guns are to Americans

In the aftermath of another horrific mass shooting in the United States, the rest of the world is, as is customary after these all-too-familiar incidents, shaking its collective head in disbelief.

What seems particularly incomprehensible is that such a tragedy will, in all likelihood, lead to no meaningful action.

But before we get too self-righteous, we might want to consider whether similar aberrations or blind spots exist in New Zealand public policy. One issue that warrants serious consideration, particularly in light of recent events, is our attitude to cars and the transport culture that prevails as a result.

The parallels are clear. When it comes to transport policy in New Zealand, as with gun control in the US, it’s as though all reason and evidence goes out the window. As a society we seem willing to tolerate all manner of “collateral damage” as a trade-off for the perceived benefits.

After each incident – a mass shooting in the US or a multiple fatality on our roads – along with a sense of déjà vu comes a feeling of resignation.

Deep down we know that after all the thoughts, prayers, condolences and exhortations to act have subsided, nothing meaningful will be done to prevent the next tragedy.

Our road toll has been rising over recent years, with fatality rates increasing since 2013 after many years of decline. Yet there has been no overwhelming public outcry. There is, at some level, collective acceptance of a manifestly unacceptable situation.

Transport policies continue to prioritise traffic flow and reliability for motorists over safety for everyone. We continue to tolerate children being killed on their way to school as somehow being an acceptable price to pay for the freedom and convenience that driving provides.

Like gun deaths in the US, it doesn’t have to be this way. In the Netherlands, for example, the road fatality rate in 2014 was 2.8 per 100,000, less than half of New Zealand’s rate of 6.5.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “but we’re nothing like the Netherlands”. However, until the 1970s, neither was the Netherlands.

How "Vision Zero" creates safe roads for all

A succinct video on how the safety principles of Vision Zero work to save lives and reduce serious injury. Enjoy!..