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Lower limits . . . Moeraki Boulders Kiwi Holiday Park owner Alex Beley at the Moeraki Boulders turnoff. PHOTO: HAMISH MACLEAN

A proposed variable speed limit of 70kmh either side of the turnoff to the Moeraki Boulders on State Highway 1 south of Oamaru is to go out for public consultation.

The speed restriction, controlled by a rural intersection active warning system, would apply 170m either side of the turnoff, which has become steadily busier in the past several years.

The NZ Transport Agency has worked closely with the Waitaki District Council to improve safety at the turnoff after serious concerns were raised by the Moeraki community.

Other safety measures completed before Christmas and in the new year included “keep left” arrows being painted either side of the intersection, and the brown tourist sign for the boulders being moved closer to the intersection, from 500m out to 300m out. The give way sign was also made bigger.

An informal assessment conducted at the site by NZTA and council staff on January 19 found 429 vehicles travelled on SH1 between 1.15pm and 2.30pm. Of those, 44% (190) turned off the highway into Moeraki Boulders Rd.

According to NZTA crash statistics, there was one fatal crash, one serious injury crash and four minor injury crashes 250m either side of the turnoff between 2011 and 2016. In the past two years, four other fatal crashes have occurred on the stretch of highway in the area.

In a statement, NZTA southern business unit manager Ian Duncan said the installation of the active warning system was the most practical way to manage the crash risk at the intersection.

“This means that when a vehicle on the state highway approaches the right turn bay, or there is a vehicle waiting to turn right on to the highway from the Moeraki Boulders Rd, the electronic active warning system signs on either side of the intersection will display a 70kmh speed limit.

“This requires drivers to slow down as they pass the intersection. When there are no vehicles making right turns into or out of Moeraki Boulders Rd, the 100kmh open road speed limit applies.”

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said he was pleased the proposal had been put forward, but believed it had taken too long.

“It would have been good to have this a couple of years ago. There is more they could be doing, but they’ve taken some steps with things like directional arrows.”

Mr Duncan said the NZTA was working on other improvements at the intersection, such as the extension of the right turn bay and improved left turn facilities.

A wider programme of safety improvement work is also planned for later in the year on SH1 between the Waitaki Bridge and Dunedin, as part of a nationwide $600 million Government-funded safer road and roadsides programme.

Feedback on the proposal can be addressed to the senior safety engineer, NZ Transport Agency, PO Box 5245, Dunedin 9058 or emailed to speedlimitotgosthland@nzta.govt.nz.

The consultation period closes on April 7.