NZ's highest-grossing speed camera in spot with no fatalities in eight years

NZ's top revenue gathering speed camera, on Whitford Brown Avenue, Porirua.
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

NZ's top revenue gathering speed camera, on Whitford Brown Avenue, Porirua.

Police are being accused of revenue gathering as figures show the site of New Zealand's most-profitable speed camera has not had a serious crash in years.

The last fatal accident on Whitford Brown Ave, Porirua was in 2008. Police installed a speed camera there in 2014 and in its first year of operation it gathered more than $1 million.

Before the speed camera was installed, but since the last death, the road had already been made safer with a lowered speed limit and barriers separating oncoming traffic, crash records reveal.

But police have defended the speed camera's position, saying they look at long-term trends and Whitford Brown Ave remains a danger spot.

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Police have consistently said they only put speed cameras in danger zones and restated the stance when it was revealed in January that Whitford Brown Ave was New Zealand's highest-grossing speed camera.

But New Zealand Transport Agency crash statistics for the road show the last fatal accident was in February, 2008, when retired chief air accident investigator Ronald Chippindale was killed by a car which lost control while going up Whitford Brown Ave.

The previous fatality on the road was in 2004.

There have been 11 serious accidents on the road between 2004 and 2015. The most-recent of those was four years ago, in 2012.

Police installed the Whitford Brown Camera in November 2014 and in 2015 it issued 15,273 tickets to a value of $1.139 million.

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Superintendent Steve Greally, road policing national manager, said speed cameras were positioned based on "past and future" crash risk judged "on what has happened in the past".

They looked at data spanning a decade rather than a year or two and the fact there were no recent deaths or serious injuries came down to blind luck.

"The cameras are all about preventing serious injuries and death," Greally said.

Money from speed tickets went straight into the Government coffers.

"We have no interest in any money coming from cameras – we just don't see it."

Whitby man Richard Finlay said the NZTA figures proved the Whitford Brown camera was only installed for "revenue gathering, not for reducing accidents".

Following Chippindale's death in 2008 the speed limit on the road was reduced from 70kmh to 50kmh. Soon after, a  median strip was put in to stop cars crossing into oncoming lanes.

The reduction in crashes was due to these measures, not the speed camera, Finlay said.

Police supplied a list showing which suburbs the Whitford Brown tickets were going to in the past financial year.

With 967 tickets, the relatively-wealthy suburb of Whitby topped the list, but just after that came the low socio-economic suburbs of Cannons Creek and Waitangirua, with 836 and 829 tickets in the year respectively.

Finlay said the figures showed police were "taking money from those that can least afford it".

Greally argued the allegation was senseless: "That is to imply that low socio-economic people are not worth as much."

Road safety campaigner Clive Matthew-Wilson said police had to acknowledge their rigid enforcement of speeding was not working and more emphasis should be put installing median barriers.

"If you look at the cold, hard statistics, the accident rate on this stretch of road did not change before and after the installation of this speed camera.

"Most of the people who get speeding tickets are simply ordinary motorists who have drifted over the speed limit."

 - Stuff

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