Lights out in park opposed
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.’’
The Waitemata Local Board has decided not to replace light bulbs as they fail along Western Park’s isolated paths.
Waitemata Local Board
member Vernon Tava