Taxpayers' Union takes a pass on $12m Auckland Harbour Bridge lights

KeallHauled

Chris Keall

The lights on Auckland Anniversary Day. Vector has chipped in $10m to the initiative and Auckland Council up to $2m (Chris Keall)

Auckland Habour Bridge is going to be lit up again by the Vector Lights on Waitangi Day.

The light show, powered by 90,000 LEDs and 100 floodlights, was first switched on for Auckland Anniversary Day last week.

On the face of things, it looks like a target for the Taxpayers' Union.

Vector contributed "$10 million for the lights themselves, which is contributing to the installation, and meeting the costs for maintenance and ongoing operations over the next 10 years," communications manager Richard Llewellyn confirms.

But although the NZX-listed lines company's contribution is significant, Auckland Council, through Ateed, has still committed up to $200,000 per year for the decade-long initiative, according to Mayor Phil Goff (implying a total allocation of up to $2 million). A large proportion of the first year’s costs will go toward installation and in subsequent years will go toward reprogramming and marketing of events using the lights to national and international audiences. 

A savvy communications strategy saw the various parties involved being transparent and upfront about costs, and getting the budget debate out of the way ahead of time (costs were first disclosed to media in May 2017). Mr Goff and Vector boss Simon Mackenzie included details such as the plan to install 630 solar panels to power the lights (it actually ended up being 248, although that's apparently enough to do the job. The panels are linked to a Tesla Powerpack battery farm the size of a shipping container at Wynyard Quarter – Tesla being one of Vector's partners in the nascent solar and battery markets).

And to help smooth things along, Colenso BBDO and social media marketing agency The Goat Farm have been engaged in pushing messages about clean energy, sustainability and promoting the city.

Still, NBR thought it might be easy to bait the Taxpayers' Union into a "two million bucks of ratepayer money wasted on pretty light show" type of comment, or even have a dig at Vector, which, while listed on the stock exchange is still 75% owned by ratepayers via Entrust. But it was not to be.

After consulting with sister lobby group the Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance, Taxpayers' Union executive director Jordan Williams said, "We’re going to pass up on commenting on this sorry. Unless the price was outrageous, lighting the bridge is a little like fireworks – clearly a public good."


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25 Comments & Questions

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You can bet, about half-a-dozen new Council jobs will be established to oversee the operation of the lights.

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A total waste of money.
Imagen how that money could
Have helped hospitals or St. John’s or any one in need

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A awesome new sound and light experience when SkyPath is built.

Maybe GeorgeFM could also get in on the sponsorship and the Greens could lobby for eco friendly magic mushrooms to be planted under the bridge?

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I disagree, not a waste of money per say but definitely a waste of tax payers money!! How dare the council spend our money on this type of self promotion. While I’m on it, why is it necessary for the council to get involved in every aspect of our lives. Get on an run the city, cut the grass verges, clean up rubbish, and reduce the rates. DO IT.

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Are you mad? There's no personal legacy in just cutting the grass etc. These days the councilors want to see their names up in lights. The only problem with that, is that the ratepayers have to foot the cost of it.

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I agree. I’m sure the $2m could be spent better. I mean the harbour bridge is there where it has lights or not.

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Soooo....you’re saying that the taxpayer’s union doesn’t have a problem with the lights, even though you tried baiting them into saying something to that effect, and then when it didn’t work, your wrote a whinging article about it anyway? Seems like people are enjoying the lights and that a bit of positivity in the press would be more refreshing than the sourness with which this article was written.

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I don’t care if people are enjoying the lights. Why should I and other rate payers pay for the bloody things. Get a sponsor if you really need show off lights on the harbour bridge.

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To right, it's a waste of money. No doubt the cost of it will be factored into the next rates demand.

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They did.

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You have hit the nail on the head Sarah. We should also cancel all support for music, arts, theatre- even sporting stadiums. Rather have the money in our pockets. We don't need to spend money to brighten up our lives. The extra money we get will make us feel sooo good.

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The claim that these lights are solar powered is without foundation.

The battery and solar cells feed very expensive electricity into the grid.

The lights on the bridge are supplied by the grid. If the solar cells or the battery failed, the lights would still stay on. If the lights didn't go on, the solar cells and battery would continue to feed very expensive energy into the grid.

If Vector really wanted to minimise peak demand and store energy for the benefit of its consumers it would be reviving the water heater control system that it has effectively abandoned. The benefit to the consumers would be enormous.

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Hi Brian -- shades of Ian McEwan's satirical novel Solar, you reckon (a hilarious, thumping good read, incidentally, that's much more rambunctious than McEwan's usual work)? Have forwarded your comment to Vector for confirmation or otherwise. CK

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Be warned, my use of the word "grid" was in the sense of describing any part of the network that is grid connected.

Vector may well try to avoid the issue by pointing out that the battery feeds into their local network and the bridge takes its power from the local network and therefore does not involve "the Grid" that can be used to describe Transpower's network.

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wot the waste of my tax but Im not
living in that City, not fair! dump
idea.

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Couldn't cyclists ride on a chain link track where it's interlocked on cogs to drive a generator and power could be used to run rechargeable batteries?

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There aren’t enough of them to light my Christmas tree’s lights. Purely a PC phenomenon. Terrain and weather means it can only succeed with expensive electric bikes

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Lights look great.

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$10m is a waste of SHAREHOLDERS' money - and the light show is pretty lame too - nobody I know thinks its worth it. As usual Sydney does this better

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People living in cars can watch the lights!
Thanks Labour.

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Yes when you put it like that it does seem to come across as unnecessary and wasteful.

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Thank nine years of John and Bill for that one.

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So I am funding Vector's monopoly so these muppets can hang up lights on an ugly bridge? Really... I rather have my 10-er back or see the > 10 M invested in better healthcare, education.

Didnt Phil say he was going to support "wise spending" of the council. What a load...

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I’m interested to see which events are honoured during the course of a year. Anyone seen a list yet? Is it Vector’s call or Goff and Maori Advisory Committee? PC will rule either way...so get the tissues out.

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What a bunch of whining tight ar*ses - any move to make the ugliest harbour bridge in the world look slightly more attractive should be applauded. Can we do it to all the other ugly buildings in Auckland too? Might improve the look of the place (and take quite a while to complete) I'm sure ratepayers wouldn't mind as it might keep their property values up. As for the Taxpayers Union (now there's an oxymoron) Jordan who?

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