Invercargill's new $250,000 Christmas lights have been switched on, ending almost two years of controversy in the deep south.
The LED lights and decorations were purchased by the Invercargill City Council earlier this year to replace the original set of Chinese lights, which were found to be non-compliant with New Zealand safety standards.
Those decorations were bought last year for the budget price of just $5,500 from Invercargill's sister city Suqian in China. However the $21,000 trip to choose the decorations was slammed as a ratepayer-funded junket for three council staff, who failed to check whether the lights were suitable for New Zealand conditions.
Mayor Tim Shadbolt admits the whole saga has been a mistake and an embarrassment, but is confident the council has made the best of the situation.
"Well it's all had a happy ending, and that's the main thing in life', he says.
"Alright, now and again you have battles and you make mistakes, and all you can do is publicly apologise which we did at the highest level of council, and have another go."
Council staff and contractors have spent the last fortnight installing the LED banner lights, rope light motifs, and tree lights in the CBD. Council chief executive RIchard King says around half the cost of the $249,000 project will actually be spent on installation, including a number of one-off costs.
The council's roading manager, Russell Pearson, says the new lights are more impressive and will require less maintenance, with an expected lifespan of up to 10 years.
"The LEDs are much, much brighter. I guess a little bit more energy efficient too. But in the past we used to have light bulbs, and in the very beginning we actually had to paint the light bulbs ourselves."
The council has also been able to repair the non-compliant lights by removing and replacing parts of the decorations, allowing them to be hung safely in Esk St this year.