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Wairarapa is joining the street-lighting technology revolution, switching from the traditional amber to whiter LED lights.
The new light-emitting diodes (LEDs) network is being installed across the region, starting in Carterton this week.

LEDs use less power and need less looking after than the high pressure sodium lamps that they will be replacing.The move follows an announcement in 2015 of an 85 per cent subsidy to replace energy-hungry incandescent street lights. The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) is picking up 85 per cent of the total cost.

Lights on State Highways 2 and 53 through Wairarapa are not part of the initial roll-out, however NZTA have indicated that they will be converted in the near future, says David Hopman, Masterton District Council Asset and Operations Manager.

Mr Hopman says residents may see their neighbourhood in a new light as the replacement bulbs are installed.

LEDs are designed to produce a whiter light, more like daylight, that makes it easier to see and recognise shapes and colours after dark.

“The lights also have less spill beyond the road, and have a different colour which will aid those with an interest in the night sky,” he says.

Much of South Wairarapa is already recognised by astronomers and astrophotographers for its breathtakingly clear views of the night sky, and Martinborough was recently awarded “3K City” classification as well as having its own Dark Sky Society.

Converting to LED lighting will save up to 60% of the electricity consumed by conventional sodium lights. LED lights also require less maintenance and have a much longer life span, (20 years compared to 4-5 years for sodium lights). International studies have found that LED lights also help to reduce urban road accident rates due to increased luminescence and the whiter light.

The Wairarapa project has been awarded to Alf Downs Streetlighting, who are employing two local firms to carry out the work. The project involves retro-fitting around 3000 street lights, and is expected to be completed by the end of June 2018.

Neighbouring Hutt Valley and Palmerston North started the switch last year.

Across New Zealand’s 82,500 km of road network exists some 370,000 street lights, consuming 116 GWh or 0.4PJ of energy. Approximately 80% of those lights are high pressure sodium.

Approximately 6% of street lights (around 24,000) are located on state highways and are under the control of the NZTA. The balance is split across 72 other road controlling authorities, mostly councils.