Wellington's new speed limits come into force

Motorists heading into Wellington's inner city on Sunday will need to add a little extra time to their usual journey planning.

From Sunday the speed limit on most central streets is dropping from 50km/h to 30km/h.

Greater Wellington Regional Council spokesperson Roger Blakeley says it will make the area more user-friendly.

"That's going to make it much a more pedestrian-friendly, walkable environment, rather than a traffic area with cars going 50km/h."

Main routes around the CBD will remain at 50km/h, including Vivian St, Karo Dr, Taranaki St and Kent and Cambridge Terraces.

"Retaining a 50km/h speed limit on the main roads gives a strong direction on where the through traffic should go," NZ Transport Agency senior manager Robyn Elston said.

Roger Blakeley says there is more work to do to fix the city's congestion.

"It won't solve some of the congestion on the main highways - those need to be addressed by some of the larger issues we're looking at, such as mass rapid transit." 

Wellington councillors approved the changes in June in a unanimous vote. While more than 200 signs have been updated, road markings might not be until later this year.

"It's going to take a little while for everyone to adjust so we're encouraging drivers to look out for the 30km/h signs, slow down and give people space," Councillor Jenny Condie said.

"Lowering the speed in Wellington's CBD is part of making longer-term changes for people walking, biking and using public transport that are at the heart of other cities around the world."

Blakely says it's a step in the right direction.

"The mantra of 'let's get Wellington moving' programme is moving more people with fewer vehicles - it's a shift to get people out of their private cars and into walking and cycling and public transport."

Wellington's move follows Auckland, which lowered many of its CBD street speed limits at the end of June. 

"Setting safe and survivable speeds for our road network is the quickest and most cost-effective way to immediately reduce death and serious injury," Auckland Transport executive general manager of safety Bryan Sherritt said.

"Setting safe speed limits is just one part of a significant road safety investment between 2018 and 2028."

This year's road toll to date is 166 - down on recent years, largely due to the COVID-19 lockdown during which far fewer cars were on the road.