Correctly set, vineyard bird-scaring laser lights should not be lighting up Pisa Moorings like a dance party at Ibiza.
But during this year’s harvest, the new automated technology has upset several Pisa Moorings residents, including Peter and Margaret Gibson.
The Gibsons complained twice to the police between mid-February and the end of March that the beams of light into their lounge were an ‘‘invasion of privacy’’.
They are upset the police ‘‘have done absolutely nothing’’, so complained to The News .
A police media spokeswoman said on Tuesday police do not deal with laser light complaints.
‘‘Regarding whether or not we have received a complaint from the person you mention below, anyone who makes a complaint to police has the right to privacy, so I am not able to share that information with you. In general I can confirm that this would not be a matter for police,’’ the police spokeswoman said.
Other contacts spoken to say the issue is one for WorkSafe, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment or the Civil Aviation Authority.
A Pisa Moorings closed social media group began posting light complaints from March 21. Most of Cromwell’s harvest is now over and the two known laser light units in the area are no longer going.
One, on a cherry orchard, switched off at the end of February.
The other, on Domaine-Thomson vineyard, switched off on April 4.
The Gibsons confirmed the beams had recently abated to a flash, but said for nearly two months their lounge had been filled with light, day and night.
‘‘You should not be able to shine them in a built up area,’’ Mrs Gibson said.
‘‘We are not going to put up with it next year . . . They have got no right to shine lights into our house,’’ Mr Gibson said.
The Gibsons suspected the beam came from Domaine-Thomson near the end of Sugar Loaf Dr, but were not sure.
Mr Gibson said he complained to the police rather than to the company because he could not find the owner.
He was also concerned the lights could be a hazard to planes and helicopters at night.
Domaine-Thomson vineyard manager Simon Gourley said he was disappointed to discover the complaints were on social media, rather than receiving them directly.
‘‘We can’t resolve an issue if we are not aware it even exists. We are not hiding. If it was our laser, they can tell us. We are signposted from the road, directly opposite Pisa Moorings and there was no contact at all. A bit of communication would be ideal,’’ Mr Gourley said.
The new technology had been a successful ‘‘good news story’’, did not harm birds, saved operating costs and he would use it again next season.
‘‘Nets are very expensive to put on and off and maintain while being used. It is also a lot of plastic, a very limited amount can be recycled. If we can avoid those things, it is better for everyone.’’
Civil Aviation Authority communications spokesman Mike Richards said there had been just one complaint in New Zealand about a vineyard light unit interfering with an air traffic control tower.
It was rectified as soon as the tower got in touch with the vineyard.
The vineyard operator disabled the device until it could be reprogrammed to point only below horizontal, Mr Richards said.
Airways Corporation was looking into issuing targeted information around harvest time, he said.
‘‘Overall, we have not received any concerns relating to the impact of these devices on aviation,’’ Mr Richards said.
Charlie Johnson, of Westport company Maintrac, said the units must be incorrectly set up if they were beaming into flight paths or houses at night.
Set properly, between dawn and dusk, the most the human eye could see was a quick flash of a green dot around vines or cherry trees. There was no need to have them going at night when birds were roosting, he said.
Maintrac’s units were solar powered, so if left on all night, the batteries would lose power, he said.
Maintrac began investigating bird dispersing technology about eight or nine years ago, including handheld laser devices used to keep birds off airport runways.
It has supplied hundreds of automated units, mainly in Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay and Central Otago, and exports the units to Australia.
The units were being used to keep protected red›billed seagulls off Oamaru buildings as well as in other built up industrial areas without issue, Mr Johnson said.
‘‘Mostly what I am saying, if it is going at night in a vineyard or cherry orchard, it should be a simple fix. Check the timer,’’ he said.
Since becoming aware of the Gibsons’ issue, he had been in touch with Maintrac’s customers near Cromwell and discovered those units were switched off at the end of harvest.
‘‘If it is a competitor’s product, I would not know about the problem.’’
Mr Gourley said negative complaints about reverse sensitivity issues affected the entire industry, so it was important for neighbours to talk to and notify each other of any problems.
The reality was, living in rural areas was not as romantic as people thought, and growers did not intend to annoy others, he said.
‘‘We have had issues with the gas gun that was supposed to be on a light sensor. I think it was last season. A neighbour rang me up and sent me a message and we fixed it. If someone rings me and says ‘your laser is in my house’ I am not going to say ‘tough s. . .t’. We are going to fix it,’’ Mr Gourley said.
Viticultura director Timbo Deaker said he had been using the technology under the Gibbston Valley flight path and around Alexandra Airport for three years with no complaints.
‘‘I would have thought I would have heard it by now,’’ he said.
Mr Deaker also advocated for neighbourhood communication.
He agreed if lights were left on at night, they would attract eyes.
‘‘It is like a disco show. Yeah, it is bit like a dance party. But you can’t see it much at daylight.
‘‘All you see is a green dot running around a vineyard. At night, you would see a full beam . . . It would be a disaster if we were causing laser strikes into pilots’ eyes, but that probably speaks more to them not being set up properly,’’ Mr Deaker said.
Mr Deaker said he would be surprised if any district plan in the country had controls on laser light technology.