LED street lights are fine, but there are not enough of them

Pools of light from the new LED streetlights captured by Palmerston North resident Jane Mullaney.
JANE MULLANEY

Pools of light from the new LED streetlights captured by Palmerston North resident Jane Mullaney.

The lights are better but there are not enough of them and some parts of Palmerston North are darker than before.

At least one Palmerston North City councillor is questioning the wisdom of persevering with the switch to LED street lights.

Cr Lorna Johnson told the council's finance and performance committee on Monday she was concerned complaints about their adequacy could prompt the need for significant extra spending and undermine potential for savings.

The council has received several submissions and social media complaints about the new lights being installed in pedestrian streets around the city.

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The $2.1 million programme will see a total of 3500 street lights replaced.

The LED lights are expected to use 59 per cent less power than those they replace, potentially saving more than $400,000 a year in energy costs, and slicing 70 per cent off maintenance bills.

But quite a few residents are not convinced.

"We have heard quite a lot of feedback from residents that the lighting is less effective than before, and I'm a bit concerned we are carrying on regardless," said Johnson.

Some of that feedback was prompted by a submission Westbrook resident Jenny Olsson made on the council's proposed annual budget.

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She said many people had commented to her on how dark her street was since the LED conversion.

"And, yes it is [dark]. The deep pools of black between the lights are just so black. And when you've got trees within a metre or two of the lights, it makes the dark pool even bigger."

On crutches, Olsson said her mobility issues meant she didn't feel safe crossing the road at night.

"Cars tear up and down so fast, I could be crossing out in the middle of the road and not be seen."

City Networks general manager Ray Swadel said the problems were related to the spacing between street lights, and it was accepted some additional light  poles would have to be installed.

He said the changeover to LED lights had been approached as a simple programme of replacing light fittings to achieve energy savings.

It had not addressed whether additional street lights were required.

That assessment would be a major piece of work, he said, and a recommendation for further spending would be considered as part of next year's Long Term Plan deliberations.

Johnson said she was unhappy with the prospect of a "major patch-up" after the LED programme was done.

She said the council had agreed to the change based on projected savings.

Those benefits would be eroded if the council had to make a major investment in infrastructure later, and having to power an unknown number of extra lights would detract from the savings plan.

Meantime, deputy mayor Tangi Utikere has asked staff to report on the feasibility of carrying out a full lighting audit across the city.

"That's looking at the city as a whole  [for] lighting opportunities and the need for consistency across the city in wattage and light dispersion," he said.

Olsson said an audit could be a way forward to shedding better light on city streets, as long as it was carried out thoroughly.

 - Stuff

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