Lights out in park op­posed

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

PLANS to re­move light­ing in Western Park won’t spell lights-out for all pub­lic green spa­ces.

Auck­land Coun­cil in­tends to turn off the lights in Pon­sonby’s 4.8 hectare park to dis­cour­age peo­ple from us­ing it at night.

The coun­cil says this will make the park safer.

Waitem­ata Lo­cal Board mem­ber Ver­non Tava says the plan is site-spe­cific and won’t be rolled out across all pub­lic parks.

All light­ing op­tions will go out for pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion early next year.

The con­tro­ver­sial ini­tia­tive has been met with crit­i­cism from res­i­dents and ad­vo­cacy groups who ques­tion how mak­ing the park darker will im­prove safety.

Ryan Richards was sub­ject to a vi­o­lent at­tack in Western Park in 2010 and be­lieves re­mov­ing light­ing is a ‘‘ter­ri­ble idea’’.

Richards and two friends were walk­ing along Pon­sonby Rd at 3am after a night at a bar when the at­tack oc­curred.

Long-time Pon­sonby res­i­dent Deb­o­rah White also says the plan is short­sighted.

‘‘We’ve got in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion around Pon­sonby now with high-rise apart­ments – you’re go­ing to bring all of th­ese ex­tra peo­ple in here and turn all the lights out. It’s just so bizarre.’’

But Tava says light­ing can cre­ate a false sense of se­cu­rity lead­ing peo­ple into po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions.

The ini­tia­tive is based on feed­back from po­lice, com­mu­nity safety teams and over­seas re­search.

‘‘There is a lot of ev­i­dence that if you light the wrong places it can have a neg­a­tive im­pact.

‘‘You’re ac­tu­ally lead­ing peo­ple into places that aren’t safe,’’ he says.

‘‘I can un­der­stand peo­ple’s dis­may that it’s a coun­ter­in­tu­itive re­sponse but it’s an ap­proach that’s used widely over­seas and has been done in other parts of the coun­try suc­cess­fully.’’

Western Park is a steep­sided gully which is heav­ily planted and does not have good sight-lines from the street.

The board has de­cided not to re­place light bulbs as they fail along th­ese iso­lated paths but the sec­tion of park that runs along­side Pon­sonby Rd will re­main lit.

Tava says the plan is not about cut­ting costs.

‘‘This is first and fore­most a pub­lic safety re­sponse,’’ he says.

‘‘We would never sacrifice pub­lic safety to save money. The park needs work and we are plan­ning in the next few years to spend far more in the place than you’d save by tak­ing out a few lights.’’

In con­trast to plans for Western Park, the board is fund­ing im­proved light­ing and se­cu­rity cam­eras in My­ers Park.

Al­bert Park is also in line for a light­ing up­grade.

Tava says that un­like Western Park th­ese in­nercity parks sit be­tween two highly pop­u­lated ar­eas and are used as the most con­ve­nient route to and from des­ti­na­tions.

Western Park is not a main pedes­trian short­cut with al­ter­na­tive well-lit routes along Howe or Hep­burn streets, he says.

Pon­sonby res­i­dent Gerry Hill has walked his dogs in the park in the evenings for the last 20 years and says he has never felt un­safe.

‘‘If it was re­ally dark and un­lit at night I wouldn’t go down there but that’s im­pact­ing on the per­sonal free­doms of peo­ple to en­joy the city.’’

Photo: JESS LEE

Lights out:

The Waitem­ata Lo­cal Board has de­cided not to re­place light bulbs as they fail along Western Park’s iso­lated paths.

Pon­sonby res­i­dent

Gerry Hill

Waitem­ata Lo­cal Board

mem­ber Ver­non Tava

Pon­sonby res­i­dent

Deb­o­rah White

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