Navigation beacons in Whangaroa and Kaipara Harbours are to be upgraded at a cost of about $17,000.

Jim Lyle, the Northland Regional Council's Opua-based Regional Harbourmaster, said upgrades and maintenance of navigation aids was vital.

The Whangaroa South Head light is an important coastal light providing guidance towards the narrow harbour entrance, as well as a red sector marking the Arrow Rocks, Mr Lyle said.

"The light was fitted after recommendations following a 1983 tragedy when seven people died after the yacht Lionheart foundered in a severe storm trying to find the entrance to the harbour.


"Sail Point light is just south of Ruawai. The shore-based light is positioned near the top of the huge harbour, giving some surety to navigators in an area where shifting sands make maintaining buoys and beacons difficult."

Mr Lyle said the existing sector lights at both the Kaipara's South Head and Sail Point are of an older style technology and have been operating for more than 20 years.

"Council's maritime team is about to upgrade them to new LED lights, which offer a number of advantages. They need less maintenance than the existing lights and deliver a much crisper and clearer light due to their advanced lens design."

The flash characteristic of the South Head light will be quickened from a 12 second cycle to a six second cycle but the sequence and sector directions will remain unchanged.

The Sail Point light will have its flash quickened from one every 10 seconds to a flash every three seconds.

In another change, the red sector will be removed altogether as the area it marked is now designated by lit buoys defining the channels.

As well as the $14,000 cost of the lights themselves, the council expects to spend another $3000 upgrading location equipment, batteries and panels.

Work and weather-permitting, the council's maritime staff will complete the installation by the end of summer or early in autumn.