Wellington City Council reveals 17,000 street lamps in capital prone to snapping

2:43 pm on 12 April 2023
A modern street LED lighting pole. Urban electro-energy technologies. A row of street lights against the night sky.

Seventeen of the lamps have already fallen (file picture). Photo: 123RF

Wellington City Council has revealed 17,000 LED street lamps installed in 2018 across the city have the faulty adaptors which are prone to snapping.

A report to council, which has just been released, shows 17 of the lamps have fallen to the ground in the last four years.

Mayor Tory Whanau, who was briefed along with councillors this afternoon, said this presented "a clear and unacceptable safety risk".

"I urge anyone who sees a drooping light to notify us straight away and the council will fix the light within two hours of it being reported, weather permitting."

City council chief infrastructure officer Siobhan Procter said removal of the adaptors was "a top priority".

"We are working as hard and fast as we can to solve this issue. Approximately 600 adaptors have been removed to date with more lights being fixed every day."

The council aimed to complete the work within 12 months.

"This work is currently being done by the council's maintenance contractors and we are going through a procurement process to get additional resource. The exact timeframe to fix the network will depend on contractor availability but it is absolutely a priority for us," Procter said.

The faulty component is an aluminium-alloy adaptor, which is part of the structure attaching 11.2kg LED lamps to poles.

In February this year, the council commissioned engineering laboratory WSP to stress-test a sample of the fixtures. The testing showed that, despite the adaptors being able to carry a static load of up to 60kg, they were "unsuitable" for Wellington's windy conditions and were fatiguing over time.

The testing also strongly indicated that, contrary to earlier assessment, all adaptors had the potential to fail, although the heavier adaptors in the city's windiest areas were most at risk.

Procter said scoping indicated that it would cost about $6 million to remove the adaptors and reattach the lamps directly.

The council is seeking funding from Waka Kotahi and will fund its "share" through borrowing.

Staff were aware that a small number of lamps - between two and five - fell to the ground each year between 2019 and 2023 but the council had understood the issue was not widespread, Procter said.

"It's clear our processes at the time weren't up to scratch. We've now made significant improvements in this area to avoid this issue happening again. Our community expects better, and we expect better."

By the numbers:

  • 17,000 streetlights that have the faulty adaptors
  • 17 lights have been reported as falling to the ground
  • 161 lights have been reported as drooping
  • 600 lights fixed to date
  • two hours to fix lights once reported
  • 3200 heavier lights in high wind areas being fixed first
  • 0.1 percent of the city's streetlights have fallen