Council skids off speed limit

A proposed 30kmh limit for Wellington's central city has faltered at the final speed bump.

Three years after it was suggested, the plan to extend the 30kmh limit from the Golden Mile to the rest of the CBD lost by the thinnest of margins.

After more than an hour of debate last night, Wellington City Council voted eight to seven, scrapping the proposal and retaining the existing 50kmh limit.

The decision came despite the councillors already voting in favour of an altered list that dropped some roads from the proposed 30kmh zone.

The proposal was first raised in 2011. It was shelved and brought back on to the agenda this year, and this month was approved by two transport committees.

Councillors who voted against the proposal last night said the speed in the city was self-regulating.

Most people travelled at 30kmh during the day anyway, and telling drivers they had to travel slowly outside business hours when it was perfectly safe to drive at 50kmh was pointless, Nicola Young said.

"This whole proposal is fixing a proposal that doesn't exist."

The focus had to be on altering pedestrian behaviour, she said.

Simon Marsh said it made no sense to "dribble along at 30kmh" when the traffic conditions did not warrant it, and the mean speed in the CBD was already 31kmh anyway.

"Why do we need to change this to 30kmh? You need to drive with the conditions, that is what is sensible."

But those who supported the 30kmh said it was an important step to achieving the city vision of having a pedestrian-friendly city centre.

Andy Foster said it came down to whether the council wanted to show leadership - because eventually the speed would be lowered because it helped save lives and was international best practice.

"Do we want to lead or do we want to follow, because I think we should lead."

Justin Lester said the city had created a vision in 2004 to slow down the CBD but was not delivering on it, while Auckland was improving its inner city environment and boosting the economy as a result. "They've got a vision and their councillors are holding the line and enacting it . . . our councillors are responsible for council going nowhere."

The Automobile Association had opposed the 30kmh limit, and Wellington district chairman Michael Gross said he could take a deep breath of relief, though he was surprised the council had rejected the proposal.

It may have taken note of the AA's submission and a council officer report, which showed most traffic already moved at 30kmh during the busy periods.

The AA was committed to a safe city - including cars, bikes and walking - which was the same aim as the council, he said.

THE VOTES

For the 30kmh speed limit in the CBD: Celia Wade-Brown, Andy Foster, Sarah Free, David Lee, Justin Lester, Iona Pannett, Mark Peck Against: Ray Ahipene-Mercer, Jo Coughlan, Paul Eagle, Simon Marsh, Helene Ritchie, Malcolm Sparrow, Simon Woolf, Nicola Young 

The Dominion Post