$600k to banish gloom in CBD

Palmerston North's dark, dangerous and crime-inducing central city footpaths could soon be illuminated if a project for new lighting under verandas is switched on.

The $605,000 project to make the city streets safer by night has just received a "brilliant" $400,000 boost from the Central Energy Trust.

The project was developed after a deputation in 2012 from the city's Safety Advisory Board chairman Steve Williams and police acting Inspector and area prevention manager for Manawatu Brett Calkin.

Their survey showed 80 per cent of the central area had plunged into darkness while lighting was left up to building owners.

Calkin said there was no doubt poor lighting went hand in hand with crime and vandalism.

"At the moment at night there are places in real darkness. They are scary parts, and are unsafe."

The darkness discouraged many citizens from being out and about at night because they did not feel safe.

Better lighting would not just move criminal behaviour into darker places, but remove the opportunity for some crimes altogether, he said.

The survey found many property owners did not realise their outside lights were not working, or had turned them off deliberately to save money. "At the end of the day, it is not the business owners' responsibility. We don't ask building owners to pay for street lighting to help motorists, neither should we expect them to pay for lighting for community safety."

Williams said the solution had to be a comprehensive lighting network owned, operated and controlled by the council.

Council roading manager Graeme Tong said the possibility of using environmentally sustainable LED lighting, which uses 50 per cent less power and costs half as much as standard lights to maintain, was being investigated.

LED also provides a whiter light, giving better definition, and making it easier to identify people.

A trial was likely to begin within a few weeks.

Tong said if the project was given the green light after Annual Plan consultation, it would get under way in the second half of this year.

The switchboards for veranda lighting at 227 buildings would be disconnected and made safe, and replaced with new connections to the Powerco street lighting network.

The city council would keep a database for maintenance and metering.

Ratepayers would pick up the bill for power and maintenance. A sum of $102,000 a year was in the budget, but Mr Tong expected the costs would come in lower than that.

Williams said the grant from the trust was "brilliant".

Mayor Jono Naylor said the full cost of installing lights, $605,000, had been included in the council's draft Annual Plan.

"The generous grant will mean we only require $205,000 of that proposal," said Mayor Jono Naylor.

He said it would complement the safety and lighting improvements already undertaken in The Square.

"Now it's time to help spread that safe feeling further into the central business district."

Manawatu Standard