Ratepayers look set to be the winners as the Far North District Council rolls out new LED street lights in a bid to cut power and maintenance bills.
Street lighting became a hot topic in the Far North this year when a dispute between the council and lines company Top Energy, which has held the maintenance contract for 25 years, led to repairs grinding to a halt. By March 112 out of a total of 1800 street lights in the Far North were broken.
That dispute, and the high costs of sending crews out to repair street lights in remote parts of the Far North, prompted the council to upgrade its street lighting technology.
Over the next two months existing sodium and mercury vapour lamps in outlying areas such as the Aupouri Peninsula and Hokianga will be replaced by light-emitting diode (LED) lights, which require less maintenance and consume far less power.
Infrastructure and assets manager David Penny told a council meeting last week the new lamps lasted on average 20 years, while sodium lamps had to be replaced roughly once every 2 years. The new lamps were also more robust and drew less than half the power.
At $500 apiece the new lamp heads cost $150 more than the old-style lamps but that was soon recouped. The labour cost of replacing an existing light was about $110.
Mr Penny said the council spent about $500,000 a year on power for street lighting, of which $263,000 was line charges. The council was hoping to discuss reducing those charges with Top Energy, he said.
In less-remote areas old-style lamps would be replaced by metal halide lamps, which did not last as long as LED lights but also consumed less power and cost less than $100.
Both the LED and metal halide lamps produced white light while sodium lamps were yellow. Upgrades would take place area by area to avoid mixing white and yellow lights.
It was one of the biggest technology shifts in the Far North of recent years, Mr Penny said.
Mayor Wayne Brown welcomed the money-saving plan.
"There's an idea for a headline: Council has bright idea," he said.