Schools want TDC to heed speed worries
Tasman district residents fear that some of their roads will soon be lined with white crosses if the Tasman District Council does not reduce speed limits.
Mahana representative of the Moutere Hills Residents Association, Julian Manning, said he felt the council had no interest in the safety of users of Old Coach Rd, and had an "irresponsible and dismissive attitude" towards speeding.
He said residents in the area had been trying to get speed limits along the road, between the Moutere Highway and Dominion Rd, reduced for the past decade. They were particularly concerned about the safety of children at Mahana School.
"We have decided that the TDC has no interest in the safety of walkers, joggers, cyclists, motorists and, most of all, children who use Old Coach Road, and we are unwilling to stand by until white crosses appear at the roadside."
The group is petitioning the council to get the road's speed limit reduced from 100kmh to 70kmh, with a 50kmh school zone.
In December 2004 a roading assessment by MWH, commissioned by the council, said it considered a safe speed along the 3km road to generally be 55-60kmh.
The group's petition has 600 signatures so far. It also plans to put up its own signs urging motorists to slow down.
Mahana School principal Justin Neal has signed the petition. He said he wanted to see a "common sense" approach to speed limits in the area.
He said Old Coach Rd was difficult to drive along, and the speed issue was timely, as more children had enrolled at the school this year, so there were more road users to look out for.
"It's not safe enough for kids, and it's not a safe road."
Appleby School principal Graham Avery said he was still battling the council to get the speed limit reduced outside his school.
The Nelson Mail reported the school's concerns before Christmas. However, Mr Avery said the council had not yet acted on complaints about the existing 100kmh speed limit.
"We would hope they were being proactive - it's the safety of young people."
He said the school would be happy to work with the council on ideas, and could raise funds to get flashing "Slow down" signs, like those outside Hira School.
Mr Avery said he had seen many cars zooming past the school, and he estimated that some were over the 100kmh speed limit. He believed a police presence and speed cameras in the area were needed.
TDC communications adviser Chris Choat said drivers using Old Coach Rd and the highway outside Appleby School were already driving "well below the speed limit". He said council surveys showed that the average speed along Old Coach Rd was 62kmh, while outside the Appleby School it was between 70 and 80kmh.
Rather than enforcing reduced speed limits, he said the focus should be on raising awareness of the schools' presence to drivers.
"Posting different speed limits is not always the best solution."
Mr Choat said speed limits past schools were being reviewed nationally, and the council would implement the resulting guidelines.
He said research had shown that signs like those at Hira had only a temporary effect on drivers' speeds, and schools needed to focus on educating the community about speed levels in their areas.
Hira School principal Tonnie Uiterwijk disputed Mr Choat's view, saying he believed the signs were "very effective".
The signs were turned on when children were arriving and leaving, he said. If drivers were over the 80kmh limit, lights on the signs would flash.
He said it took the school nine years of campaigning to get the speed limit outside the school lowered to 80kmh.
Mr Choat said the council understood the Tasman schools' concerns.
He said it had not given up on resolving the situation, and wanted to work with the schools to explore "alternative and additional solutions".
There were other "non-traditional" ways to reduce speeds in school areas, Mr Choat said. Schools could do what Central Takaka School, which was in a 70kmh zone, had done.
"They put up large photos of a mother and child walking hand in hand. It has shown people seeing these signs change their behaviours."
However, Central Takaka School board chair Sophie Davies said that while the school had found the large signs to be effective, it would be better to reduce the speed limit outside the school to 50kmh.
West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O'Connor said there was a lack of common sense at the council about speed limits around schools.
He said he last meet with the council four weeks ago about issues raised by several schools, including Mahana, Appleby and Ngatimoti. Meetings were "not terribly productive", however, and the council had said it was waiting for direction from the Government.