Move to reduce speed limit in Otematata

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The Otematata Residents Association is pushing for the speed limit through the town to be reduced to 50kmh, as vehicle and foot traffic in the area grows.

The speed limit through the town’s main street, a section of State Highway 83, is 80kmh.

In a submission to the Waitaki District Council on its 2018-28 long term plan, the association said the speed limit needed to be addressed as it was a “major safety issue” for the town.

“There are many more people crossing the highway – cyclists, walkers who walk the wetlands track, golfers, campers, people who walk across the main highway to and from the hotel, and owners and users of the new apartments adjacent to the golf course,” the submission said.

The 40 apartments are part of a five-year project to redevelop the Otematata Eatery, Bar and Lodge.

The association suggested the speed limits be changed to mirror those in nearby Omarama, also on State Highway 83, where the speed limits dropped from 100kmh to 70kmh and 50kmh.

Former association secretary Vicky Munro, who supported the association in its submission, said Otematata had “expanded somewhat” which had increased traffic flows on the roads and foot traffic in recreational areas near the highway.

“What’s actually happening is the demand for the recreation areas and the traffic has increased. The actual speed limit on the road hasn’t kept up with the demand.”

She wanted to see “traffic calming” islands installed in the town, as well as pedestrian islands so people could cross the highway safely.

NZ Transport Agency senior traffic and safety engineer Roy Johnston said the agency was looking nationally at where improved speed management could provide a “significant reduction” in death and serious injuries.

“At this stage, Otematata is not part of that highest benefit group,” Mr Johnston said.

“However, we are intending to have further discussions with Waitaki District Council about speed management which may provide an opportunity for Otematata to be considered further, in a wider context.”

An agency spokeswoman said factors taken into consideration before reducing a speed limit included land use around the highway, the nature of the road, volumes of traffic, crash risk, property accesses, intersections and the views of people living nearby.

Even a relatively straightforward speed limit change could take four to six months, and some took 12 months as legal processes had to be followed.