$17,000 of upgrades for Whangaroa, Kaipara sector lights

3 Feb 2016

Special aids to navigation light beacons designed to help keep boaties safe in Whangaroa and Kaipara Harbours are to be upgraded and modernised at a cost of about $17,000.

Jim Lyle, the council's Opua-based Regional Harbourmaster, says the council takes its role in navigational safety very seriously, and supporting the upgrades and maintenance of aids to navigation is vital.

He says the Whangaroa South Head light is an important coastal light providing guidance towards the narrow Whangaroa entrance, as well as a red sector marking the Arrow Rocks.

"The light was fitted after recommendations following a 1983 tragedy when seven people died after the yacht 'Lionheart' foundered in a severe storm trying to find the entrance to the harbour."

"Sail Point light is just south of Ruawai on the North Kaipara Head side of the harbour. The shore-based light is positioned near the top of the huge harbour, giving some surety to navigators in an area where shifting sands make maintaining buoys and beacons difficult."

Mr Lyle says the existing sector lights at both South Head and Sail Point are an older style lamp technology and have been operating for more than 20 years.

"Council's maritime team is about to upgrade them to new LED lights, which offer a number of advantages. They need less maintenance than the existing lights and deliver a much 'crisper' and 'clearer' light due to their advanced lens design."

Mr Lyle says they also require less power which means they can complete their 'flash characteristic' to a more rapid cycle, improving navigation safety.

"The flash characteristic of the South Head light will be quickened from a 12 second cycle to a six second cycle, with the sequence remaining the same. The sector directions will also remain unchanged."

The Sail Point light will have its flash characteristic quickened from a flash every 10 seconds to a flash every three seconds."

In another change, the red sector will be removed altogether as the area it marked is now designated by lit buoys defining the channels in the area.

As well as the $14,000 cost of the lights themselves, the council expects to spend another $3000 upgrading of location equipment, batteries and panels.

Council maritime staff will complete all the installation work and weather-permitting, the upgrades are expected to be completed by the end of Summer/early Autumn.

Upon completion, the appropriate 'Notice to Mariners' will be issued allowing the update of affected charts.

Mr Lyle says Notices to Mariners for any area or chart can be downloaded for free from the Land Information NZ website www.linz.govt.nz

"Alternatively, anyone with queries about this latest work in Northland should contact the Harbourmaster's Office on (0800) 002 004."