Hayley Olliver’s eyes light up as she recounts favourite childhood memories of wandering wide-eyed around New Plymouth’s famed TSB Festival of Lights at the city’s iconic Pukekura Park.

And it’s with the same enthusiasm that she now leads the team that brings excitement and a sense of wonder to a new generation of youngsters, families, friends and the many visitors who come to experience the region’s flagship event.

“Being born and raised in Waitara, I remember going to the TSB Festival of Lights when I was little and it was a huge night out for me and my family,” says Hayley, New Plymouth District Council’s (NPDC) Events Lead.

“Now I’m managing the team that delivers it, which is a huge honour and a huge privilege.”

The annual six-week extravaganza of creative, innovative, immersive light and sound installations, and music and entertainment, attracts thousands of tourists each summer.

“Its reputation has really grown, from starting as a small community event to a world-class festival, with national reach,” Hayley says.

From humble beginnings in 1953 when the Pukekura Park fountain, with its sequence of water and lighting effects, was installed to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, there are now 3km of lighting trails traversing Pukekura Park.

New installations are brought in every year to make it fresh and exciting. There are also 90 free entertainment events in the evenings, showcasing local, national and international musical talent.

The festival is just one of the many reasons why Hayley believes Taranaki is a great place to live, work and play.

“I’m deeply connected and proud of our region and its achievements,” she says. “I was raised here and now proudly raising my family here."

“We are building a Lifestyle Capital. One with awesome schools, incredible parks and open spaces, and a vibrant arts scene."

“For me, the Events Team at NPDC is all about creating and delivering extraordinary events in partnership with our community, and there is a great sense of community across the district. We also get fantastic support from the business community – the festival wouldn’t be as big today without our business community backing it.”

Being a lifestyle capital also means being sustainable, and the TSB Festival of Lights is a glowing example of that.

“We need to protect our place for future generations. The council is working towards going Zero Waste by 2040, so we encourage our visitors to use the series of recycling bins around the park. We are also working to cut CO2 emissions from our lighting displays, so we have been transitioning to low-energy LED lights. And we repurpose and reuse products in our displays where possible.”

The festival is also favouring digital platforms, reducing paper maps and brochures with an easy-to-use digital, interactive map, which has been developed by NPDC and can be viewed on a smartphone.

“Our can-do attitude is shining through and keeping Taranaki humming,” Hayley says. “It’s the greatest place to be right now. We’re a special place – a place like no other.”