Tauranga City Council is upgrading 7000 residential street lights with energy-efficient LED bulbs. But the energy-saving initiative has got some local residents all sparked up.

"Absolute crap," said a resident of Pāpāmoa's Oriental Parade, Bruce McDougall.

"It's Oriental Parade and they're oriental design and it's just going to destroy the whole character of the street. Why destroy something that's fabulous?"

Councillor Steve Morris says the upgrade is going ahead thanks to an 85 per cent subsidy from NZTA.


"We might as well use it because they're not giving us any money for roads. Secondly, we're saving two gigawatt hours of energy per year by making this conversion."

That's the equivalent of running Huntly power station for two hours. But despite these savings, not everyone is on board with the change.

"The negative side of the lights can be the appearance," Morris said.

"There have been a number of residents who have been, erm, dissatisfied with the change, particularly those in sub-divisions which have ornamental lights. And the council has only got the subsidy for a very basic light fitting across the entire 7000 light fittings in the city."

The various permutations of subsidising the fancy light fittings is where things get complicated.

"First of all, people who don't live in subdivisions would have to be paying for people in sub-divisions to have a nicer light fitting," Morris said.

"But conversely, we've had people who've moved into sub-divisions who paid for these nice lights through the sale of their section or section price. So they're dissatisfied that the ornamental fittings have gone and been replaced with a pretty basic light fitting."

Morris said a targeted rates rise for those in affected areas could be the answer, but nothing had been confirmed yet.


Locals were also concerned about the new lights' ability to keep their communities safe.

"With the lights being more directional they are lighting up the road corridor rather than spilling into people's backyards or in dark corners and that sort of thing. That's an issue we're going to have to look at. The great thing about the LED light is that we can turn them up and down so there is some flexibility if there are some concerns in individual neighbourhoods. Individual lights can be calibrated."

But there's another issue too. Since daylight savings on September 29 many people had reported street lights coming on in the middle of the day. But the good news was that ratepayers were not paying for it.

"The council owns the light fitting and the poles, and the power company owns the cabling. If there's an error with the circuitry, after heavy rains or daylight savings, that sort of thing where the lights are burning longer ... that cost is picked up by the power company not the ratepayer. There's definitely an incentive to correct those sorts of faults because they're paying for it."

And for those who can't get past the looks, the savings on their rates from the LED conversion may just get them across the line.

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