Chris Hipkins argues Kiwis need a 'cultural change' in how they drive after scrapping speed limit policy

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins argues Kiwi drivers need to drive to the conditions and slow down, despite his Government scrapping a policy on speed limits. 

Hipkins said on Monday the Government was reprioritising further spending as Labour continues its refocus on the cost of living and recovery from Cyclone Gabrielle.

This policy wildfire, along with previous reprioritisations, is estimated to save the Government about $1 billion. 

As part of the wildfire, the Government announced it was "significantly narrowing" its speed reduction programme to focus on the most dangerous 1 percent of State Highways. 

The original plan announced in November would've speeds lowered to become "safe and appropriate" on 4 percent of State Highways. 

Hipkins told AM on Tuesday despite "narrowing" the policy, they're still working on other initiatives to keep Kiwis safe. 

"We're looking at improving road safety, so we're doing more work on the maintenance of roads, more work on things like barriers. We've got significant increases in the investments we're making in that area," Hipkins told co-host Ryan Bridge. 

"The speed limit work was only one of the areas where we were making change. We're narrowing that down onto the most dangerous roads." 

Bridge asked Hipkins how many extra people will die on New Zealand's roads now the policy isn't going ahead.

Hipkins said he doesn't have a "crystal ball" but said the policy will keep Kiwis safe. 

"You're asking me a hypothetical here, sadly we don't have a crystal ball to determine exactly where accidents are going to happen or where people are going to be injured," the Prime Minister said. "But by narrowing in on the most dangerous roads, that's where we can make the biggest difference in the level of injury we're seeing on the roads."

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins Photo credit: AM

He stressed Kiwis need a "cultural change" when driving on the roads and shouldn't focus on getting to their destination as quickly as possible. 

"There is a cultural change that we continue to need to push. We need to get people actually driving responsibly to the conditions," Hipkins said. 

"The speed limit can be 100km/h, but if it's raining and if visibility is poor, you probably shouldn't drive at that speed if you can't see what's ahead of you. 

"Actually, we've got to send a message to all New Zealanders that regardless of what the sign says, you should drive safely for the conditions on that road at that time." 

The speed reduction programme is part of the NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi's Road to Zero strategy, which aimed to reduce the number of people killed on New Zealand's roads. The Government's goal is to reduce deaths and serious injuries by 40 percent by 2030, which officials said would save 750 lives and thousands from being seriously injured.

Provisional figures from the Ministry of Transport showed 378 people died on New Zealand roads in 2022.

The 2021 and 2020 final road tolls both reached 318 road fatalities each year - meaning last year's toll surged 60 people higher.

Watch the full interview with Chris Hipkins in the video above.