New Zealand’s largest dark sky reserve one step closer

Wairarapa in New Zealand is one step closer to creating the country’s largest dark sky reserve.

Wairarapa is one step closer to creating the country’s largest dark sky reserve.

Carterton and South Wairarapa district councils this week signed off on new rules to ensure outside lighting in the two areas meet international dark sky reserve requirements and limits the light pollution that can ruin glorious night-sky vistas.

Wairarapa Dark Sky Association chairwoman Viv Napier said it was a critical step for the community.

“It’s amazing. We’re really excited because it is a key part of being able to apply to the International Dark Sky Association for reserve status. Until you’ve got these rules in place, then you can’t even put in an application.”

Light pollution is so bad in parts of the country and around the world that only the very brightest cosmic objects can be seen from the ground.

With the new rules, the Wairarapa Dark Skies Association has just overcome one of the last major hurdles before submitting its application to become the largest dark sky reserve in the country. One of the most important changes was to use warm, and less light polluting, hues of street lighting.

Most towns and cities use 4000 Kelvin LED lighting, which is a very bright white hue that contains blue light that projects well but can cause glare in the sky.

The 3000 Kelvin LED lighting that these councils have agreed to use still does a good job lighting ground areas, but sends a lot less glare into the sky.

The councils, together with Masterton District Council, have worked to develop the new lighting rules for nearly two years.

Once Masterton district was incorporated into the reserve area, it would be the largest dark sky reserve in the country.

The International Dark Sky Association has already indicated strong support for the rule changes, expected to come into force straight away.

The dark sky association plans to submit an application to the international group in a few months.

“The international body had given its endorsement to the plans ahead of their adoption,” Napier said.

One of the group’s remaining tasks was to complete their inventory of public lighting across the region and assemble the application.

Changes to lighting rules

New outdoor lighting must be tilted down or shielded so the light goes out and down preventing glare and sky glow. The color temperature of lights is 3000 Kelvin or lower. Outdoor lights on a five-minute or less lighting sensor/timer are exempt from the above rules.

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