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Safe speeds save lives

Imagine an Aotearoa New Zealand where everyone can get where they’re going safely. Where it’s safe to drive to work and home again or visit whānau and friends. Where it’s safe to ride bikes and let tamariki walk to school. Where transport improves our health and wellbeing, creating liveable places for our communities.

The speed limits on Aotearoa New Zealand roads are not up to date with our current understanding of risk, the likelihood of a crash, how severe the crash is, or with how we keep others safe and comfortable around our roads. Even when speed doesn’t cause the crash, it’s what will most likely determine whether anyone is killed, injured, or unharmed.

Safe travel speeds will save lives.

Speed management is a proven effective way to improve safety, saving lives and preventing debilitating injuries. Safe and appropriate speed limits are a key lever in creating a safe transport system that puts all people no matter their mode of transport at its heart. It will also assist Aotearoa New Zealand’s contribution to global sustainability targets by reducing harmful emissions and noise pollution, making communities more attractive for living, working, or visiting.

Along with our road controlling partners, Waka Kotahi is responsible for planning, investing, implementing, and managing transport corridors that contribute to thriving towns and cities in ways that consider the needs of all users.

The Setting of Speed Limits Rule

The process to change speeds has been both slow and inconsistent, so a new regulatory framework was proposed by the Ministry of Transport to Cabinet. A proposed new Rule was drafted and socialised with the sector. Following consultation Waka Kotahi helped refine the draft proposed Rule. The Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits 2022 (the Rule) is the result and forms the regulatory framework designed to improve how road controlling authorities plan for, consult on and implement speed management changes. It enables an improved approach to speed management planning on Aotearoa New Zealand roads. 

Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits 2022

The Rule replaces the previous Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits 2017.

The Rule will significantly change the way speed limits are set in the future and will ensure decisions about speed limit changes are made (and described) in the context of safety-related infrastructure improvements and the placement of safety cameras.

The Rule provides:

  • a more effective process to select and set speed limits
  • greater regional consistency, both in process and in transport outcomes
  • that all parties are aligned as much as possible, for as long as possible, through the process.

Our new approach to speed management planning, including the new Speed Management Guide: Road to Zero edition, the National Speed Limit Register (the single source of truth for speed limits on all Aotearoa New Zealand roads) and the updated MegaMaps: Road to Zero edition provides road controlling authorities with the tools they need to support Aotearoa New Zealand’s road safety strategy, Road to Zero.

Road to Zero – Aotearoa New Zealand's road safety strategy

Consultation on the Rule

We consulted on the proposed draft Rule between 25 April and 25 June 2021. The high volume of thoughtful and constructive feedback contributed to further refinements in the new Rule including key changes to the roles for coordination and certification of speed planning, and in the timing and categorisation of school speed limit changes.

The Summary of Submissions report analyses and provides a summary of the submissions and feedback from Waka Kotahi.

Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits 2021 consultation

Key features of the Rule

The Rule improves the speed management process by:

  • introducing a regional speed management planning approach on a three-year cycle that aligns with the three-year cycle of the National Land Transport Programme
  • bringing together infrastructure investment decisions and speed management decisions through a speed management planning process aligned with the regional land transport planning process
  • requiring road controlling authorities to use reasonable efforts to reduce speed limits around all schools by 31 December 2027 with an interim target of 40% of schools by 30 June 2024. Schools includes all schools and kura under the Education and Training Act 2020
  • acknowledging the status of Māori as our Treaty partners and specifies that Māori are involved in the development of speed management plans and consulted on aspects of the plan that are important to them
  • requiring all road controlling authorities that are territorial authorities to include their proposed speed limit changes and safety infrastructure treatments (including proposed safety camera placements) for the coming 10 years into speed management plans
  • introducing a new consultation process that aligns with the three-year regional land transport planning consultation process
  • requiring regional transport committees to coordinate input from road controlling authorities in their region to create a regional speed management plan, aligning with the regional land transport plan process
  • requiring regional councils to facilitate the administrative function of regional consultation on speed management plans
  • giving the Director of Land Transport at Waka Kotahi responsibility for certifying speed management plans
  • establishing an independent Speed Management Committee to:
    • review the Waka Kotahi draft state highway speed management plan (SHSMP) and provide advice to the Director of Land Transport on that plan
    • oversee the information and guidance on speed management that Waka Kotahi (as regulator) provides to all road controlling authorities
  • introducing a new process for setting speed limits outside of speed management plans, and for road controlling authorities that are not territorial authorities
  • removing the requirement to set speed limits through bylaws, enabling a whole of network approach that considers safety-related infrastructure improvements, speed limit changes and safety camera placement together
  • requiring all speed limits (other than temporary speed limits) to be entered into a national register which will give legal effect to all speed limits (other than temporary speed limits)

Benefits of the Rule

When the Rule is in place and road controlling authorities begin the process of developing speed management plans using the new framework, benefits will include:

  • better health and accessibility, in addition to saving lives and reducing serious injuries
  • collaboration and consistency in planning for, consulting on, and implementing speed management changes
  • more effective and inclusive speed conversations for road controlling authorities with communities, Māori partners and other stakeholders
  • reduced barriers to setting safe speed
  • a more transparent process as speed management plans will include speed limits, safety infrastructure and safety camera placement
  • contributing to the reduction in deaths and serious injuries on Aotearoa New Zealand roads
  • providing visibility of the long term vision while specifically focusing on the implementation plan over next three years.

These changes put people, and the diverse ways we use our roads and streets (as destinations as well as movement corridors), at the heart of how we plan and maintain our transport system, ensuring it’s both safe and efficient, saving lives and reducing serious injuries, resulting in better health and accessibility for all road users.

Speed limits around schools

One of the key action items in the Road to Zero strategy is a move to set safer speed limits around all schools by the end of 2027. Reducing speed limits around schools provides the opportunity for safe, active travel to school which is important for healthy communities.

The Rule requires road controlling authorities to have 40% of school speed limit changes completed by 30 June 2024, with the remainder completed by 31 December 2027, and these changes must be built into speed management plans.

Schools will be grouped into two categories to determine the appropriate speed limit for their surrounding roads. The Speed Management Guide: Road to Zero edition provides more guidance on this.

  • Category one school areas would be the standard position with 30 km/h (fixed or variable) speed limits, or 40 km/h limits if these were in place prior to consultation on the new Speed Rule.
    • The 40 km/h limits will need review once after three years. If the 40 km/h speed limits are deemed safe and appropriate after review, the school would be re-categorised as Category two (as outlined below); if not, the speed limit would need to be dropped to 30 km/h.
    • Category one schools are more likely to be in areas with existing 50 km/h speed limits. These areas potentially have high numbers of more vulnerable road users in the vicinity (adult/child pedestrians, cyclists, micro-mobility users) with consequently higher risk. This may be from more housing in the school vicinity, making it more suitable to use active transport modes.
  • Category two school areas would provide for using a maximum of 60 km/h speed limits, with an explanation necessary in the local speed management plan about how Safe System principles will be met.
    • Where these higher speed limits are used (40 km/h, 50 km/h, or 60 km/h) for Category two schools, they would need review once after three years. If, after review, the limits were not assessed as safe and appropriate, these schools would need to be re-categorised as category one, with a 30 km/h speed limit.
    • Schools in Category two are more likely to be in areas with less comparative risk to vulnerable road users (for example, where pupils are generally driven or bussed to school, as distances make active transport modes less practical, and pick up/drop off space is provided off-road). Existing speed limits may, for example, be 60-80 km/h.
    • This may also include school areas where safety infrastructure will mitigate risk of higher speed roads (for example, there are dedicated cycle lanes or traffic bays off main roads).

A new amendment to the traffic control devices rule (Land Transport Rule: Traffic Control Devices (Kura/School Signs) Amendment 2022) enables road controlling authorities to use new bilingual Kura School signs when replacing or introducing new signs to show speed limits around schools.

Land Transport Rule: Traffic Control Devices (Kura/School Signs) Amendment 2022 [PDF, 292 KB]

Read more about the bilingual Kura School signs

View approved Kura School sign images(external link)

Speed Management Guide: Road to Zero edition

Waka Kotahi is required to provide road controlling authorities with speed management guidance to help make informed, accurate and consistent speed management decisions in their communities. The Speed Management Guide: Road to Zero edition (the Guide) provides guidance to road controlling authorities on how to establish, consult on and set speed limits under the Rule.

The Guide also aims to provide insights and information for partners and organisations with an interest in road safety and speed management.

The Guide is based on a strategic, policy and regulatory framework provided by:

The Guide draws from this framework and international best practice to highlight four key principles for speed management:

  • set speed limits according to the Safe System
  • set speed limits that provide for community wellbeing
  • set speed limits in accordance with the One Network Framework categories
  • support speed limits with a balanced regulatory approach that encompasses education, engagement and enforcement.

The Guide will provide safe speed ranges for each One Network Framework street category and guidance on what infrastructure would need to be present to choose the higher end of the safe speed range.

We will publish the Guide around the time the Rule goes into force.

National Speed Limit Register

The National Speed Limit Register (NSLR) provides an online maps-based central source of speed limits for roads in Aotearoa New Zealand. When the Rule comes into force on 19 May 2022, the NSLR will become the legal instrument for setting speed limits on Aotearoa New Zealand roads under the Rule, removing the requirement to pass a bylaw to set speed limits. Speed limits will be required to be in the NSLR to be legally enforceable. 

The NSLR will enable organisations responsible for speed management to record, update and share speed limit data, and make more informed speed management decisions. It will enable better speed limit management through having one up-to-date, nationally consistent source for speed limits and means improved efficiency as each road controlling authority no longer has to maintain their own register. 

Speed limit data is used by the public, NZ Police and increasingly by intelligent systems in vehicles. The NSLR will be publicly available and serve as the single source of the truth for speed limits on Aotearoa New Zealand’s roads. 

The NSLR will go-live when the Rule is in force.  

National Speed Limit Register

MegaMaps: Road to Zero edition

We provide each road controlling authority with speed management information for their network via the geospatial MegaMaps tool.

MegaMaps collates base information such as road function, speed limits and land use, to calculate road safety metrics and infrastructure risk ratings, and identify safe and appropriate speeds.

The Road to Zero edition of MegaMaps incorporates the One Network Framework and a revised principle-based analysis for safe and appropriate speeds. It also includes a user guide and training materials.

Speed limit data from the National Speed Limit Register will also be included in MegaMaps once it is available.

MegaMaps: Road to Zero edition will go live when the Rule goes into force.


Speed management planning tool

We are working on a speed management planning tool to help road controlling authorities create their speed management plans in a standard format. The tool will also enable regional transport committees to coordinate the regional speed management plan development process required for the 2024-2027 National Land Transport Planning cycle. This will ensure consistency across the plans developed and help with the certification process. 

For further information or questions, email