Digital billboards

The St Mary’s Bay Association has received numerous complaints from residents regarding the digital billboard on the corner of Victoria and Hobson Streets. This unusually large area of extremely bright intrusive light has become a form of visual pollution for many St Mary’s Bay residents and the wider neighbourhood.

The billboard dominates the city skyline viewed from houses in St Mary’s Bay east on St Mary’s Rd including New St, Dunedin St and Beaumont Quarter. It is now by far the brightest light in the city at all times of the day and night, even brighter than the Sky Tower. Whereas Sky Tower adds to the character of Auckland City, this overly large and glaringly bright advertisement detracts from it.

The billboard, installed 15 storeys high, is 16m tall and 8m wide with a total area of 128 square metres. The lights are so bright that they can be seen at a distance of approximately 1.5km. The brightness is further exacerbated by the strong colours which are constantly changing. This billboard regularly projects images with bright full red, yellow or blue backgrounds that stand out markedly from the colour of the surrounding buildings.

The St Mary’s Bay Association believes that this billboard does not appear to comply with many of the clauses of Auckland City Council Bylaw No. 27B Billboards, that were intended to protect residential neighbourhoods.

The clauses it does not comply with include:

27B Objectives

  1. To control the design and location of billboards on buildings or on sites in a manner which respects the visual amenity of wider neighbourhood from which the billboard can be viewed;
  2. To avoid visual dominance, adverse cumulative effects and clutter.

27B.1.3 Protection of Amenity

Billboards may not:

  1. When placed on a wall of a building exceed an area equal to 25% of the wall area or 50 square metres, whichever is the lesser;

(This billboard is 2.6 times the allowed size)

  1. When mounted on the wall of a building be placed so that any part of the billboard is:
  2. more than 30 metres above ground level;

(15 storeys is greater than 30 metres)

27B.3.1 Brightness levels

No illuminated billboard shall produce more than 800 cds/m2 (cds/m2 = candelas per square metre).

We are not opposed to billboards, but feel that non complying billboards like these targeted directly at residential areas affect the visual amenity of residents and should not be permitted. Digital billboards are more appropriate in areas like Broadway in Newmarket where light spill can be confined to commercial space. We appreciate that this billboard is in the CBD but the major impact is on residential areas of St Mary’s Bay.

The St Mary’s Bay Association has asked Auckland Council that the billboard be removed and replaced by a billboard that complies with the bylaw regulations and that cannot be seen from residential neighbourhoods. As a minimum, we have requested that the brightness be reduced and bright red/bright yellow backgrounds be avoided.

We have also asked Auckland Council to:

  • clarify its position on billboard approvals which fall outside the specifications of Bylaw N0. 27B Billboards.
  • state whether it is satisfied that the above bylaw adequately meets the impact of new billboard technologies.
  • state whether there is an obligation to consult affected residents over non-complying billboards.

The association is concerned that this could be merely the first of other oversized digital billboards facing residential areas. For example, the Sugartree development has four large blank facades facing St Mary’s Bay that would make excellent spots to mount similar glaringly intrusive billboards shining their ever-changing advertising messages straight into residential areas.