Ministry of Transport at odds with Auckland Transport over safety of 30kph speed limit

Ministry of Transport data suggests a move to drop speed limits to 30 kilometres per hour in Auckland's CBD has made no difference to road safety.  

The speed limits were changed three years ago, and the figures show the number of injuries and deaths hasn't budged. But Auckland Transport has its own numbers and says the central streets are safer.  

Most streets in central Auckland were changed to 30kph from 2020 as part of Auckland Transport's Vision Zero plan, which declared that "even one death on our transport system is too many".  

Speaking to Newshub this week about the reason for the speed limit change three years ago, Auckland Transport's Safety Technical Lead Ping Sim, said: "Being hit at 50 kilometres an hour is similar to falling from the third floor of a building."  

But has the big slowdown made streets safer? Auckland Transport argued it has.   

Rather than provide Newshub with the actual number of serious injuries and deaths in central Auckland, it provided the average rate before and after the speed limit reduction, showing there had been a 28 percent reduction.    

Ministry of Transport at odds with Auckland Transport over safety of 30kph speed limit

But that was at odds with Ministry of Transport data, showing the actual number of serious injuries and deaths since 2015 hadn't changed much, apart from in early 2022, which Newshub was told was possibly due to the Omicron outbreak.  

Ministry of Transport at odds with Auckland Transport over safety of 30kph speed limit

The difference, according to Auckland Transport, is the two agencies look at different geographical areas and calculate it differently.   

"The MoT have not used the same extents as us and therefore their data will be different," a spokesperson for Auckland Transport told Newshub.   

One thing is for sure though, the drop to 30kph has generated a lot of cash.   

Between July 2020 and December 2023, police issued 1230 infringements and 32 warnings for exceeding the 30kph speed limit, raking in $207,270 in fines.   

The Automobile Association (AA) had concerns about Auckland Transport's plan from the beginning.  

"When speed limits feel unreasonably slow to people, it's not unusual to see fairly low levels of compliance," Sarah Geard, AA senior policy advisor, told Newshub.  

Sim said Auckland Transport was "continually learning and hearing from our customers on that feedback and always trying to do better".   

One of Simeon Brown's first actions as the new Transport Minister was to stop blanket speed limit reductions, initiated by the previous Labour administration.   

"I have written to all road controlling authorities throughout New Zealand to assure them they no longer needed to implement the previous Government's blanket speed reductions," Brown told Newshub. 

"This has provided councils greater certainty and prevented them from undertaking speed limit changes that may need to be reversed.

"As part of the National-ACT coalition agreement, this Government is committed to reversing the blanket speed limit reductions where it is safe to do so. 

"This will include variable speed limits around schools during pick-up and drop-off times to prioritise students' safety."

It begs the question: will the 30kph speed limit in central Auckland remain, or could it return to 50kph?  

In response to that question, Brown said: "I will have more to say on the Coalition Government's approach to speed limits in the near future. It is too early to comment on individual roads."  

Sim said Auckland Transport will wait and see.  

"We are, like every other road controlling authority, awaiting further direction and further advice."