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Motoring

Updated: 5 October 2011

Some key milestones in New Zealand’s motoring history…

Date Milestones
1896 Cecil Woods of Timaru creates the first New Zealand-built motor vehicle.
1898 The first imported motor cars arrive in New Zealand. Member of Parliament, William MacLean, imports two Benz vehicles from France, dubbed ‘Lightening and ‘Petrolette’.
1900 New Zealand’s first electric tram arrives.
1905 Two men complete the first car journey from Wellington to Auckland - taking seven days!
1908 A farmers’ conference calls for vehicles of speeding motorist to be ‘locked out’ of 3rd and 4th gears to force them to slow down.
1918 The Christchurch City Council imported their first Walker Electric Truck.
1931 With one car to every 7.1 persons, Wellington East is the most motorised place; with 12 persons per car, Wellington West and Auckland South are the least motorised.
1934 First national traffic census is undertaken.
1937 A Traffic Code is distributed to every home, Motor Association, all Safety Councils and other ‘interested parties’.
1940 Drivers 70 years-old and over must be re-tested to ensure they are still fit to drive.
1950 The first section of motorway opens in December. It runs for 3 miles between Takapu Road and Johnsonville and is part of the main approach to Wellington City.
1950 The first compulsory STOP signs appear.
1955 A new law requires motorists to slow down to 10mph (now 20km/h) when passing a school bus that is picking up or setting down children.
1956 Motorcyclists travelling at over 30mph (50km/h) now have to wear a “Crash (later Safety) Helmet.” Moped riders are excluded.
1957 The first ‘Give Way’ signs are erected at crash-prone intersections.
1959 Auckland Harbour Bridge opens May 30.
1962 The open road speed limit increases from 50 mph (80 km/h) to 55 mph (88 km/h).
1969 The open road speed increases to 60 mph (96 km/h) for ‘suitable sections’ of road.
1991 The emergency mobile phone service -555 is introduced.
1995 Christchurch city reintroduces trams.
1996 New Zealand’s annual road toll is 515, the lowest number of fatalities in 32 years. Excessive speed was a cited cause in the fatalities of 170 New Zealanders.
1997 Hidden speed cameras are trialled in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, East Coast and Taupo.
1997 Some 60 years after the first Road Code was broadly distributed, the Minister of Transport, Jenny Shipley, launches the first CD-Rom Road Code on 25 July. The CD included animated explanations of rules plus an interactive test.