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Source: New Zealand Transport Agency

People travelling between Christchurch and Akaroa will have a safer speed environment from early September this year.

Safer speed limits will be in place on the Christchurch to Akaroa highway (SH73 and 75) from 2 September. The new speed limits were announced earlier this year by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and Christchurch City Council.

Signage materials have arrived and installation is underway.

As well as the Akaroa highway, SH74 in Lyttelton and some Banks Peninsula side roads are included in the new safer speeds changes.

Local agencies are welcoming the change, designed to help prevent people being killed and seriously injured in road crashes.

The changes include more consistent speeds through Halswell, 60km/h over the Hilltop and 50km/h through Little River to just past Wairewa Marae.

High-risk 100km/h sections of SH75 will reduce to 80km/h.

Waka Kotahi Director Regional Relationships James Caygill is expecting Canterbury will experience similar relief as Marlborough and Tasman Districts, where deaths and serious injuries in road crashes on SH6* have significantly reduced since speeds were lowered in 2020.

“I’ve driven to Akaroa many times and while it does feel different travelling at the new speeds, if around five minutes is the difference between someone being killed or seriously injured, then bring it on.”

Christchurch City Council Transport Operations Manager Stephen Wright says lowering speed limits recognises that communities are changing – there are more people about on the road – children getting to and from school, people on bikes, driving, riding motorcycles, cycling or walking.

“Safe and appropriate speed limits mean everyone gets to enjoy the road environment and get to where they’re going safely.”

NZ Police Senior Sergeant Mike Jones Canterbury Road Policing says their team looks forward to seeing drivers and passengers enjoying their journey to Akaroa. Local police will be in the area when the new speeds come into effect and in the weeks following and there will be electronic signs to help remind drivers, for the first couple of weeks.

“As well as being more appropriate for the roadside conditions and environment, there are lots of benefits of driving at 80km/h. You have 20 per cent more time to react, your stopping distance is 30 per cent shorter and your chance of surviving a crash is 75 per cent – whereas at 100km/h it is 10 per cent. Plus, a reduction in speed adds an extra song to the journey.”

Christchurch Emergency Department Clinical Director Mark Gilbert says his team has to deal with the devastation caused by road crashes.

“This is always difficult for the team – but not as difficult as it is for families of loved ones who are injured or killed. People dying or coming to terms with life-altering injuries is really sad, especially when it is preventable.

“Safer speed limits mean fewer crashes and should they be involved in a crash, less impact on people’s bodies. The flow-on effect is a reduced impact on whanau and friends. There is also reduced impact on the medical and social services who support victims and their families.”

Between 2011-2020 there were 747 crashes between Christchurch and Akaroa. Nine people were killed and 74 others were seriously injured, many facing lengthy rehabilitation. **

Christchurch to Akaroa is in the top ten per cent of roads where we can make the biggest difference in reducing the numbers of people being killed or seriously injured. There are a number of safety issues, many of which were raised by the community during public consultation.

These include:

  • Feedback saying intersections on this road feel unsafe. Drivers slow down to turn off the road to access homes, communities, businesses and tourist destinations in Banks Peninsula, while those travelling through continue to drive at 100km/h
  • The current road layout makes it difficult for traffic to safely turn, and hard for drivers to see what’s ahead
  • Urban areas and rural townships are getting busier, with more cars and other vehicles on the road and more people walking, riding and cycling in these areas.

As well as safer speed limits, Waka Kotahi is taking steps to support a safer environment for everyone using this road, including:

  • Installing new signage at town entrances
  • Adding or improving road markings
  • Continuing the maintenance programme on SH73/75, with nearly 30km of road surfacing underway between Christchurch and Akaroa
  • Investigating a range of infrastructure improvements along SH75 between Tai Tapu and Akaroa, to increase safety and resilience.

More information on the new speed limits is available online:

SH73/SH75 Christchurch to Akaroa and SH74 Lyttelton speed review

Information on Christchurch City Council’s speed limit changes(external link)

The Road to Zero New Zealand road safety plan

Economic analysis of safer speeds on rural highways [PDF, 1.6 MB]

*Since the speed reduction on SH6 between Blenheim and Nelson in December 2020, there has been a significant drop in serious and fatal crashes – from 10 serious and three fatal crashes in 2020 to two serious and one fatal crash in 2021 and 2022 to date.

**On SH73/75 over the period 2011-2020, data extracted August 2021 from the Crash Analysis System (CAS).