Work stops to let the lights on
A multimillion-dollar rebuild of Auckland’s favourite road isn’t stopping its residents from turning on the lights for Christmas for the 25th year in a row.
Long-time Franklin Rd Christmas lights co-ordinator Ross Thorby confirmed to the Herald on Sunday its tradition of entertaining families with a free festive display would go ahead, in spite of significant redevelopments to the Ponsonby street over the past year.
The thoroughfare between Ponsonby and Auckland’s CBD is getting improved footpaths, street lights and a cycleway.
Thorby said from the start of the project, in consultation with residents, Auckland Transport had agreed that contractors would pack up and leave in time for the light show, which opens on December 1 with a secret star to perform the turn-on.
In previous years, former Prime Minister Helen Clark, sailor Dean Barker, musician Dave Dobbyn, and actor Karl Urban have all done the job.
“The street has been neglected for so long we just wanted to co-operate with [officials] and get it over and done with as soon as possible,” Thorby said.
“I was quite flattered and stunned that they said they’ll be out in time for the lights. I thought, ‘You’re going to stop a $16m project for our little community’?”
Thorby said everybody would enjoy the Christmas lights and be able to drive the length of the street as usual. More than 100 homes typically take part, spending thousands on decorating their homes. Auckland Transport media spokesman Mark Hannan said it was very important that the tradition be kept alive. “That’s an iconic part of Auckland and we were never going to interfere with the Christmas lights.”
Work will resume in January with a roundabout to be built at the Wellington St intersection.
The two-stage upgrade will see the tree-lined street get a cycleway, new footpath and parking, a roundabout, better lighting, stormwater drain improvements and a new bus stop. Work began last year and will continue into 2019.
Santa’s little elves are out every year on Franklin Rd, despite roadworks.