Flawed procurement practices to blame for faulty Wellington streetlights


Wellington is faced with a $6 million bill to do work on 17,000 LED streetlights which are prone to falling – a consequence of local and central government once again prioritising price over quality and longevity

The streetlights were installed across the city in 2018 but it has since been discovered that the adaptors are not suited to Wellington’s strong winds, causing the lamps, which weigh up to 11.2kg, to either droop or, in worst cases, detach and fall to the ground.

Wellington City Council Chief Infrastructure Officer Siobhan Procter says scoping of the project indicates it will cost about $6 million to complete and the Council is seeking funding assistance from Waka Kotahi. The council intends to fund its share through borrowing. 

So far, 17 lights have been reported as falling to the ground and 161 lights have been reported as drooping.

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,” Procter says.

Buy New Zealand Made Campaign Executive Director Dane Ambler says councils have made cost-based decisions time and time again and what has happened in Wellington is no surprise.

“We are seeing government departments and councils put price ahead of quality by buying overseas-made goods. Ultimately, they are paying the long-term cost. Cutting corners does not fly when it comes to manufacturing.

“We believe the cost of repair to be between 4 to 6 times more expensive than the original procurement. Meanwhile, using a local business to make the adapters would have been just 20-30% more than the original cost.

“From a design perspective, using overseas companies that do not understand New Zealand’s harsh environmental conditions often results in products that are not fit for purpose.

“How can Kiwis be inspired to shop local when our own councils and government departments opt for cheap, overseas-manufactured goods?”

Ambler says New Zealand manufacturers are too scared to speak out after losing government contracts, fearing they will never get another opportunity to bid.

“In this case, lives are being put at risk. Poor aluminium casting of this nature would not happen in New Zealand. And if it did, the repair job would be a whole lot easier and cheaper.

“Foundries around the country are shutting down because of poor procurement decisions that prioritise cost over quality and longevity. Not only is this practice unsustainable, it is putting Kiwis out of jobs.”