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Aug 11, 2023

News | 8 May 2023

Solar lights with a penguin-friendly amber glow are being installed over the next few weeks to provide better visibility on the darkest stretch of Tahitai – the award-winning harbourside walking and bike route.

Thirteen solar lights with charging panels integrated into the lighting poles are being installed to light the paths adjacent to Cobham Drive between the two big roundabouts at Calabar Road and Troy Street.

The new lights will make it safer and easier to use this section – particularly during the winter months when shorter daylight hours often mean people need to use the coastal route after dark or before it gets light.

When no-one is around, the lights will be orangey and dim, but they will brighten up briefly when people walk, run or bike through.

The lights have smart motion sensors and can be remotely programmed and fine-tuned. They were chosen in part because they can produce light of a colour and type that is unlikely to deter kororā, little blue penguins, which nest and rest in the area.

Ligman, the company that manufacture the lights, says the amber LED has a narrow long wave-length that is friendlier for nocturnal animals, insects and plant life while still providing enough light for safe movement and orientation.

The light will be directed towards the paths and away from the rock seawall, which was built to help protect the road and paths, but has nooks and crannies between the rocks that provide appealing places for penguins.

Department of Conservation senior ranger biodiversity Brent Tandy, who was an advisor during planning and construction, says the project was a good example of how things should be done.

"It's about finding ways to balance the needs of wildlife with those of people, and making shared routes like this accessible for humans and penguins alike."

Streetlights along the centre of Cobham Drive light the road and other parts of the adjacent paths, but this 430m stretch is wider than the rest, further from the existing lights and a dark spot on the popular recreational and commuter route.

The solar lights were planned as part of the original project and cost about $326,000 including installation. They were seen as a good solution because getting electricity to the site for more traditional lighting would have been tricky and involved trenching under the state highway.

The lights are very similar to the ones that have been put in over the last few years at Pukehuia Park in Newlands and Alex Moore Park in Johnsonville.

Their solar panels are effectively wrapped around the lighting columns. This helps them to receive light evenly from the sun and sky during daylight hours, even in darker climates and seasons, and means they are good in windy locations.

Contractor Downer plans to begin work to install the lights from today (Monday 8 May). Weather permitting it will take about a month.

Holes will be dug for the foundations in the garden areas, steel reinforcing cages will then be installed, concreted and allowed to cure before the lighting poles are lifted into position using a hiab truck with a crane. The car park area will be needed to store materials and equipment so will not be available for public use until the work is complete.

People using the paths should take extra care and follow instructions from staff on site. A shared detour for people on bikes and on foot will be in place around the construction zone.

Funded by Wellington City Council in partnership with Waka Kotahi, the redevelopment of this area has been a team effort involving Taranaki Whānui, Downer, Places for Penguins, Predator Free Miramar, the Department of Conservation, the Kaikoura Ocean Research Institute, Greater Wellington, local schools, community groups and organisations, and many others.

The project has won multiple awards including the IPWEA New Zealand best public works project over $5m, a 2021 On the Go runner-up award for cycling built excellence, and a Living Streets Aotearoa Golden Foot walking award last year.

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