Does she stand by her statement that “In terms of relative transport priorities, ‘switching on’ safety around schools must be right up there at the top of any list.”; if so, is she prepared to promote or support legislation to make it easier for local authorities to implement speed zones around schools in the interests of child and general pedestrian safety?
Yes. Safety around schools is very important. Legislation passed in 2003 already allows for lower speed limits around schools. Over 70 schools now have 40-kilometre-per-hour variable speed limits installed, and local authorities are considering further applications. In fact, Land Transport New Zealand has developed guidelines to assist local authorities, following a year 2000 trial in Christchurch to implement these variable speed limits in school zones, and elsewhere around the country there are over 50 such zones in place. The Government obviously supports such initiatives.
Can I ask the Minister whether, despite what the Hon Harry Duynhoven has just said, she finds it acceptable that the Tauranga City Council has introduced a by-law to lower the speed outside schools, which is supported by Western Bay of Plenty police traffic chief Senior Sergeant Ian Campion, yet there still remains a potential risk that Land Transport New Zealand will not support the by-law; and can she assure the House that Land Transport New Zealand does its utmost to support local authorities when they request that such changes be made?
I have experience in my own electorate of just such a situation occurring. In that case, after discussion between Land Transport New Zealand, Transit in that case, and the local district council, a decision was reached where the speed limit would be lowered around schools. This matter is regularly reviewed, especially on heavy traffic roads and, I think, every 2 years or so on main routes. Land Transport New Zealand works very cooperatively with local authorities to try to arrive at the safest solution that is consistent with not impeding traffic flows.
Does the Minister believe that speed zones around all schools should be better advertised, so that they are more readily understood and, as such, become part of the national road safety programme; if so, can the Minister advise what is happening in that direction?
A number of initiatives are taking place around schools. I am sure the member will be aware that since February last year the police have strictly enforced the speed limits within 250 metres of each side of a school’s boundary. That means that if someone drives past a school at more than 50 kilometres per hour, that person will be ticketed. This reflects the Government’s view that speeds around schools are a major public health and safety issue, and school principals have appeared in Land Transport advertising promotions on television, etc., to talk about why speeds around schools need to be reduced.
What reports has the Minister seen on the Government’s commitment to safety around schools?
There have been a number of reports, but one that I have just received is a letter from councillor Dave MacPherson of Hamilton, advising me of the overwhelming support for the initiatives we have taken to reduce speed to 40 kilometres per hour around schools in Hamilton City. I know that the Minister was a great advocate of that initiative and officiated when the first installation of variable speed signs around schools went live in that city.
What are Transit’s criteria for decreasing speed limits near schools on State highways, and does the Minister find it acceptable that a long-time campaigner for lower speeds outside Tauriko School was told by a Transit official last year, regarding speed limits, that even a child being killed outside the school would not make a difference; and if Transit’s decisions are not influenced by children being killed, what the dickens does influence them?
First of all, I find it most regrettable and unacceptable that an official would make such a comment. I want to state that right at the beginning. Transit does have a number of criteria, including, of course, the volume of traffic, the number of vehicles per hour, speeds, etc., and the type of environment in which the school is situated. One of the things that has been done around the country is that for schools in situations where their pupils may be at risk from traffic, a great deal of effort and money have gone into providing things like off-road parking bays, bus parking places off the highways, etc. We do have a real problem in New Zealand, because in many cases we have relatively lightly travelled country or rural roads—or State highways even—with traffic that drives at 100 kilometres per hour, and we have very young children who come straight out from school and on to those roads. That is a huge issue. It does take a lot of managing, and Land Transport New Zealand, Transit, and local roading authorities work together to try to arrive at the best and safest solution in each individual circumstance.