Far Northerners have long enjoyed boasting they live in a district without traffic lights - but they won't be able to do so much longer.

The Far North's first set of traffic lights are being installed by the NZ Transport Agency on Paihia's Marsden Rd, opposite the wharf, and are due to be operational by mid-June.

The lights are not designed to control a complicated intersection but to manage the flow of people and traffic at a busy pedestrian crossing.

In summer and on cruise ship days so many people use the crossing it can be impossible for cars to get through, leading to driver frustration and queues of traffic. There have also been instances of cars ignoring the crossing and putting pedestrians in danger.


NZTA Northland safety manager Tim Crow said the new lights would use detectors to sense when pedestrians were waiting or crossing the road, extending the crossing time if needed or cancelling the pedestrian phase if someone decided not to cross.

That removed frustrations for motorists because they weren't left waiting if no one was crossing. The lights would have a timer so traffic was allowed through at regular intervals on summer days when the flow of pedestrians could be constant.

Called a puffin crossing, the technology was new to New Zealand but had been used in the UK for the past 10 years.

In the past volunteers using "lollipop" signs managed the flow of people and traffic on Marsden Rd but new health and safety laws put the kaibosh on that.

Last summer NZTA had paid contractors on the pedestrian crossing on cruise ship days.

A barrier fence will be erected on both sides of the road to channel pedestrians towards the crossing. The NZTA, not the Far North District Council, is responsible for Marsden Rd because it is a state highway.