LED street lights switchover in Palmerston North back on - sort of
Palmerston North's on-and-off street lights replacement programme has been switched back on, but only partly.
The city's street lights on busy and arterial routes will follow neighbourhood streets in converting to LED fittings.
The city council had halted the rollout following revelations that street lighting in up to 20 per cent of streets did not comply with lighting standards, but replacements had gone ahead anyway.
The council's finance and performance committee on Monday lifted the moratorium in light of concerns any delays would put the project at risk.
Road planning team leader David Lane said with other centres accelerating their conversion programmes, such as Wellington and Dunedin, it would become increasingly difficult to secure supplies of the new lights.
There was also a risk the council's likely contractor could accept work elsewhere.
The council would also lose out on the 85 per cent NZ Transport Agency subsidy for LED street light conversions – worth up to $3.4m in Palmerston North – which had made the move more attractive to other councils.
Lane's suggestion that the work continue only on those streets where staff were sure the results would comply with standards was endorsed by the committee.
Cr Lorna Johnson said she was disappointed with the way the switchover had been managed.
She agreed "reluctantly" to the compromise.
Johnson said while LED lighting was much cheaper to operate, it seemed councillors were not aware the change would highlight deficiencies that would cost money to fix.
"Listening to members of the public, it seems the level of lighting has been reduced.
"That might be a perception thing, but people feel less safe.
"We need to be sure that carrying on is not leading to any more safety issues."
Staff will continue with a street-by-street audit to identify the causes of problems and suggest solutions, such as changing the height of light poles or the angle of the arm, increasing the number of lights, or trimming tree branches.
The issue prompted councillors to ask for a report on the council's other assets.
Mayor Grant Smith opposed the report, as Audit New Zealand already ensured the council was checking its assets, and councillors were "using a sledgehammer ... to satisfy a squeaky wheel".