Shin­ing the light on LED black spots

The Tribune (NZ) - - CONVERSATIONS - JA­NINE RANKIN

The switch to LED street lights in Palmer­ston North has high­lighted a range of blind spots.

Not just those gloomy patches in streets that sim­ply don’t have enough light poles point­ing in the right di­rec­tions, but in whether our elected watch­dogs have been pay­ing at­ten­tion.

In re­cent weeks coun­cil­lors have had their ears chewed by res­i­dents dis­pleased by the re­sults of the switch over in their streets, with some, like those in Martin St, se­ri­ously con­cerned about their safety af­ter dark.

Coun­cil­lors have passed on the mes­sage to man­age­ment and staff with a few raised eye­brows and the odd ‘‘please ex­plain’’.

Mostly, their dis­plea­sure has been about why the new lights have been fit­ted in neigh­bour­hood streets where coun­cil staff al­ready knew the light­ing was in­suf­fi­cient.

There was a call to halt the whole project while as­sess­ments were made about what it would take to bring ev­ery­thing up to stan­dard, put­ting a po­ten­tial $3.4 mil­lion govern­ment sub­sidy in jeop­ardy.

A com­pro­mise was agreed. No ar­te­rial routes will be switched over where it is known there are al­ready short­com­ings, and plans to up­grade res­i­den­tial streets ret­ro­spec­tively will be de­vel­oped.

Newly-elected coun­cil­lors ex­cused, per­haps, it should not have come as a sur­prise to coun­cil­lors that the LED pro­gramme was sim­ply about re­plac­ing the lights, not shift­ing or ex­tend­ing or chang­ing the arms on any poles.

And it might be coun­cil­lors could have in­ter­ested them­selves some­what ear­lier in what is one of the big­gest spends in the bud­get – $2.1m in the res­i­den­tial streets alone.

A search through the files shows there has been more than six years of home­work put into the project.

Take this me­dia re­port from Au­gust, 2011.

‘‘Palmer­ston North is about to be­come one of the first New Zealand cities to make the switch to eco-friendly LED street lights.’’

Cas­cade Cres and a clus­ter of neigh­bour­hood streets in Mil­son were to be one of the first ar­eas to have the new lights in­stalled, fol­low­ing a smaller-scale trial in Vi­vian St which had at­tracted no com­plaints.

In Au­gust 2013 the Mil­son trial was re­ported to have at­tracted pos­i­tive feed­back from res­i­dents.

Hil­lary Cres in Ash­hurst and the block of Palmer­ston North’s Lin­ton St be­tween Col­lege St and Park Rd were sig­nalled to fol­low Kens­ing­ton Mews, Wharite Place, Massey St and Alan St.

The early tri­als cut en­ergy use by 59 per cent. The lamps were last­ing for 50,000 hours, com­pared to the con­ven­tional high pres­sure sodium lamps, which lasted 5000 hours.

Then in 2015, it was quite clearly stated: ‘‘The new lamps would re­place the old ones in some 5500 of the city’s 7807 street lights in a sim­ple changeover us­ing ex­ist­ing poles and fit­tings.’’

A re­place­ment pro­gramme. Not a re­view of the ad­e­quacy of the place­ment and con­di­tion of ex­ist­ing poles and fit­tings.

Did any­one ask then whether that was go­ing to pro­duce sat­is­fac­tory out­comes? Not so far as we re­call. Did any­one ask about whether street light­ing pre-LED was up to stan­dard? Or did they just as­sume it did?

The project could have, should have, been a glow­ing ex­am­ple of for­ward-think­ing, car­ing for the planet, and achiev­ing sav­ings for ratepay­ers.

In­stead, it has re­vealed a break down in com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and peo­ple be­ing kept in the dark.

HAVE YOUR SAY

The Tri­bune welcomes let­ters. They should not ex­ceed 250 words and must carry a gen­uine name, home ad­dress and day­time phone num­ber. Let­ters may be edited, abridged or omit­ted with­out ex­pla­na­tion. They can be emailed to tri­bune@msl.co.nz or posted to PO Box 3, Palmer­ston North to be re­ceived by 4pm on the Thurs­day prior to pub­li­ca­tion.

New LED lights have left many streets in the dark.

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