Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter has lashed out at National over its disapproval of Auckland Transport's proposed speed limit reductions.
The Auckland Transport (AT) board of directors signed off on the draft Speed Limits Bylaw 2019 on Tuesday, bringing AT one step closer to bringing in lower speed limits on some roads around New Zealand's biggest city.
The new speed limits, which would apply to 10 percent of Auckland roads, could be in place by August 2019. It would see speed limits for roads like Queen St, Broadway in Newmarket and Tamaki Dr in Mission Bay dropped to 30km/h.
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While the proposed speed limit reductions have been welcomed by safety advocates, the National Party has slammed the proposal as a "blanket plan to slow Auckland down".
National's stance didn't go down well with Ms Genter, who clapped back on Wednesday, saying on Twitter she was disappointed National was "trying to make AT's proposed speed changes a political football, rather than supporting evidence-based policy to save lives."
She said National's response was "irresponsible, given [the] tragic increase in road deaths in [the] past few years."
As of November, New Zealand's road toll was nearing the record heights reached in 2017, sitting at 324, just one behind 325 at the same time last year. In 2017, 64 people died on Auckland roads and an additional 749 were seriously injured.
National MP and former Justice Minister Judith Collins wasn't having any of it. She replied to Ms Genter on Twitter, telling her, "let's be frank, this is all about collecting revenue by Auckland Transport".
Ms Genter retorted on Thursday, retorting to Ms Collins: "Surely Judith, after your time as Justice Minister, you must know Auckland Transport doesn't receive any revenue from speed infringements."
She added, "So very cynical to mislead about the purpose of evidence-based policy that is actually about saving lives."
When confronted on Twitter with Government stats showing New Zealand's road toll has dropped significantly since the 1980s, Ms Genter pointed to a chart showing New Zealand's 2015 road toll compared to other countries, with it sitting somewhere in the middle.
National's Transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said on Wednesday that AT's plan to reduce the speed limit in the CBD is "an over-reaction that would prove deeply frustrating" for people living in Auckland.
"Aucklanders need to push back on this plan. This is a radical change, driven as much by anti-car zealotry as it is by safety concerns. It is hard to understand given cars have never been safer than they are now."
National is not alone in its stance. The Automobile Association (AA) isn't a fan of the proposed new speed limits, and is asking for AT to consider partially backing down on it. It has recommended 40km/h as the safe and appropriate speed for the bulk of roads in the CBD.
AA spokesperson Barney Irvine said a recent survey of AA members in Auckland found that 62 percent of respondents oppose or strongly oppose the 30km/h speed limit. Others have said that if motorists think the speed limit is too low, they'll just ignore it.
AT's proposal has also been welcomed, however, by road safety charity Brake. It said earlier this year that 30km/h speed limits will help save lives and reduce injuries, protect people on foot and using bikes, and encourage more active travel.
Meanwhile, some Aucklanders want 30km/h speed limits on all residential streets in Auckland, not just the CBD.