Speed limit on Marconi Road

19th October 2017

Mr GREG PIPER ( Lake Macquarie ) ( 17:51 ): Road safety is often spoken about in this House, and it is a positive reflection on many that the road toll in this State has fallen quite significantly over the past few decades. The good news is that roads are generally better, cars are safer and drivers are better educated, particularly our younger drivers. We know that all these things combine with suitable speed limits to save lives.

I would not be so silly as to argue that speed limits do not save lives, but I think that we sometimes seem to get too obsessed with lowering limits in areas where the status quo suffices. In that regard we have a situation in Lake Macquarie which is eroding the confidence of the community in the bureaucracy which sets speed limits, Roads and Maritime Services [RMS].

Marconi Road runs for 1.9-kilometres from Bonnells Bay to Morisset. It is a local road managed by Lake Macquarie City Council and is generally in a reasonable condition. It is lined predominantly by rural properties, with two minor roads intersecting it. Some years ago, the 80 kilometres an hour speed limit was reduced to 70 kilometres an hour. It was not a popular move among the local residents and road users at the time, but they adjusted. Certainly, the nature of the road and its surrounds are enough to give drivers the sense that it is an 80 kilometres an hour zone, but generally speaking motorists have kept to the 70 kilometres an hour limit and the road is not widely regarded as a regular speedway. While wilful exceeding of the limit may occur, one would expect that that would occur whatever the speed limit was.

I was informed by the RMS two weeks ago that a speed zone review of Marconi Road—instigated by a single request from a neighbouring resident—had been completed and it had been recommended that the speed limit along the entire stretch be dropped further to 60 kilometres an hour. The RMS's regional manager, Anna Zycki, said that the review was completed in accordance with the New South Wales Speed Zoning Guidelines, which take into account a number of things, including adjacent land use, crash history and other environmental factors. I would like to test that against other examples, but the one thing I know the review does not take into account is the views of the people who actually use the road.

I took the matter to the local community myself via social media, asking for feedback on whether people supported the speed reduction or retaining the status quo. In less than two days the message reached 28,000 people, actively engaged 8,300 people, and attracted comment from more than 430 people, who overwhelmingly supported the retention of the current speed limit. In fact, only two comments of the 442 supported the proposed 60 kilometres per hour limit. These comments from road users generally reflect those of the vast majority:

R educing the speed limit is misguided and highlights the arrogance of the RMS in not being the least bit interested in community consultation .

Another comment was:

L owering the speed limit isn't going to stop the occasional hoon but it will greatly agitate the regular users .

Another person said:

I travel this road every day and see no reason why the limit should be lowered.

I have taken that feedback back to the RMS, and I am awaiting a response.

I was also told by the RMS that Lake Macquarie City Council and New South Wales police had supported the planned lowering of the speed limit. However, it seems there is some doubt about how that consultation occurred as I was subsequently told that council tends to remain neutral on such matters. I later received information from Sunshine Progress Association which was provided to a Lake Macquarie city councillor by a council officer, which stated:

A review of Council's records has indicated that no consultation was undertaken by the RMS with Council about any proposed changes to the speed limit along Marconi Road .

It may well be that the position of the police was similarly sourced but, regardless, it seems unlikely that police would argue against a speed reduction and would perhaps be more inclined to remain neutral on the issue. As I said earlier, no-one would argue against speed reductions in areas that have long histories of accidents and complex conditions. That is not the case here. Some in the RMS appear to be taking an ultra-conservative approach to road speed in our area and by taking such decisions seemingly unilaterally without a clear good case, they lose the confidence of the community. I certainly believe that is the case in this instance. I have asked the RMS to review this decision and I have since raised the matter with the Minister; to her great credit she has offered to look into it. I also expect a call back from the RMS regional manager, Anna Zycki. I hope we can have a constructive conversation about the matter so that it can be sensibly resolved for the benefit of the community while maintaining the requisite need for safety on our roads.

Mr MARK COURE ( Oatley ) ( 17:55 ): I have listened to the private member's statement of the member for Lake Macquarie. I am more than happy to take on board his concerns and I will provide any assistance I can as Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and Infrastructure. I urge the member to email any correspondence to my office so that we can try to liaise directly with Roads and Maritime Services or the Minister.

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