Pleasure boats will swarm the gulf, lightly-clad bodies will throng the beaches and parks and, on one of Auckland's most recognisable structures, the lights will go on for the first time.

The traditionally warm and settled Saturday of Auckland Anniversary long weekend, January 27, has been chosen as the launch date for a bold plan to illuminate Auckland Harbour Bridge with lights powered by solar energy.

The transformation of the 58-year-old coathanger-style structure will begin with the launch of Vector Lights – a six-minute specially-composed opening show sequence featuring original music and spectacular lighting effects.

An artist's impression of the Harbour Bridge, once it is lit up next year. Photo / Supplied
An artist's impression of the Harbour Bridge, once it is lit up next year. Photo / Supplied
Artist's impression of the bridge, which will be lit by 90,000 LED lights and 200 floodlights. Photo / Supplied
Artist's impression of the bridge, which will be lit by 90,000 LED lights and 200 floodlights. Photo / Supplied

The show, which can be synched via smartphone or radio, will start at 9pm and repeat every half hour until midnight, with an ambient light display in-between.

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The opening show, which will reference Tama-Nui te Ra (the sun), Hikohiko (electrical energy), and Hei te Ao Marama (the future world of light), will also be streamed online at vector.co.nz/lights

Just as the Sky Tower shows its colours in support of various events throughout the year, the bridge will also be programmed to celebrate special occasions.

In between, the lights — 90,000 LED lights, which can be individually programmed, and 200 floodlights — will subtly frame its architecture.

The project - which will cost about $10 million - is part of a 10-year energy efficiency partnership between power company Vector and Auckland Council. Vector is paying most of the costs spread over several years and the council will fund digital programming of the lights for special events.

It is believed to be the first major bridge in the world to have all its lighting powered entirely by solar power from 630 panels installed on top of North Wharf in Wynyard Quarter.

Paul Cannin is managing the bridge lighting project for Vector. Photo / Supplied
Paul Cannin is managing the bridge lighting project for Vector. Photo / Supplied

Mayor Phil Goff said lighting the bridge would add vibrancy and interest to both those who call the city home and those passing through.

Generating the energy required by using solar power also highlighted Auckland's commitment to sustainable energy and tackling climate change.

"With the generosity of Vector in meeting most of the cost, we are gaining an asset for Auckland to make our city a more interesting and vibrant place."

Vector chief executive Simon Mackenzie said the light show would be an evolving showcase of new energy solutions.

These would illustrate what a more sustainable energy future could look like, he said.

An artist's impression of the new Auckland Harbour Bridge lights, which will be switched on early next year. Photo / Supplied
An artist's impression of the new Auckland Harbour Bridge lights, which will be switched on early next year. Photo / Supplied

Having a permanent lighting display on the bridge would also be a first for the NZ Transport Agency, which manages the bridge infrastructure.

A primary and intermediate school competition for the honour of flicking the switch on January 27 closes on December 10. Pupils in years three to eight can enter drawings, videos and models for the Design the Future competition at vector.co.nz/designthefuture