Waka Kotahi moves to make SH5 safer


A safer new speed limit for State Highway 5 (SH5), one of the highest risk roads in the Hawke’s Bay, will come into effect early next year. 

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is lowering the speed limit on SH5 between Rangitaiki and Esk Valley, following technical assessments of the road and consultation with the public. From 18 February 2022, the speed limit on SH5 from Rangitaiki (1140m southeast of Matea Road) to Esk Valley (110m west of Waipunga Road) will be permanently lowered from 100km/h to 80km/h.

“Safe speeds save lives. When speeds are safe for the road, simple mistakes are less likely to end in tragedy. That’s why we’re making the speed limit safer for everyone who uses this road,” Director of Regional Relationships Linda Stewart says.

“We have listened to the feedback and we understand the need and desire to also make infrastructure changes that will complement the speed limit change.

“As such, we are undertaking feasibility work on safety improvements for the entire section that will consist of shoulder widening, wide centrelines, side barriers and some intersections improvements.

Following detailed design work, we will be looking to begin implementing these infrastructure changes from late 2022.

“In the meantime, however, the most effective tool we have at our disposal now to dramatically improve safety for everyone who uses this road is to replace the unsafe speed limit of 100km/h with a much safer speed limit of 80km/h. That won’t be popular with everyone, but it’s the right thing to do and our priority is that everyone gets to their destination safely.”

Between 2010 and 2019, 16 people were killed and 75 were seriously injured in crashes on SH5 between Taupō and Napier. Since December 2019, a further nine people have lost their lives in six fatal crashes. All but one of these occurred between Rangitaiki and Esk Valley.

“Every death and every serious injury on our roads has a devastating impact on a large number of people – whānau, friends, colleagues and neighbours, as well as our first responders,” Ms Stewart says.

“It is time we stopped accepting that a certain amount of death and serious injury is just the price we all pay for moving around. We need to move past the whole idea of a ‘road toll’ paid in human lives.

“We have clear evidence to show that the current speed limit is not safe for this road, even for the best drivers. The road traverses a constrained and challenging environment and is hilly with sweeping bends and no physical separation of traffic travelling in opposite directions.

“It’s not safe or appropriate for it to have the same speed limit as Auckland’s Southern Motorway or the Hawke’s Bay Expressway. Speed limits should reflect the type of road and their environment.
“SH5 is a critical north link for Hawke’s Bay, and will continue to be for years to come, so we know that it’s important to plan for its future long-term,” Ms Stewart says.

Along with introducing safer speeds on SH5 and SH51, around $14 million will be invested into maintenance and safety projects around the Hawke’s Bay region this year. This will include road resealing and replacements at multiple locations along SH5.

In addition, Waka Kotahi has resealed sections of SH5 and Titiokura Summit, improved safety at the Tarawera Café entrance and have spent $16 million on maintaining the state highway in the 20/21 financial year - an extra $4 million above previously budgeted.

Waka Kotahi is also seeking funding for a business case that will explore improvements in addition to safety, such as improving the resilience of the route to make it better able to withstand severe weather events. If funding is approved, work will be delivered in stages between 2021 and 2027.

As part of New Zealand’s road safety strategy, Road to Zero, Waka Kotahi is identifying roads where safer speed limits can make a big difference in saving lives.

Road to Zero accepts that humans are vulnerable, and we make mistakes. It sets us on a path to achieve Vision Zero, an Aotearoa New Zealand where no one is killed or seriously injured on our roads.
The changes we’re making under Road to Zero are so that people aren’t killed or seriously injured when they do make mistakes.

More information on the permanent speed limits and a consultation summary, including the submissions can be found at:
SH5 permanent speed limits