Spotlight on night sky light pollution

Lake Hawea residents  are considering how to protect their view of the night sky from light pollution. Photo by Mark Price.
Lake Hawea residents are considering how to protect their view of the night sky from light pollution. Photo by Mark Price.

How to minimise light pollution dominated discussion at a meeting of the Lake Hawea Community Association at the weekend.

President Dennis Hughes said yesterday, while the association had not yet decided on a course of action, the 68 people who attended wanted more information about the impact of public lighting on night-sky views.

''It is really quite fascinating. It really captured the meeting.''

There was a strong feeling the night sky was special and ''we should be doing everything we can to enhance our ability to view the night sky'', Mr Hughes said.

The meeting discussed the impact of street lighting and commercial lighting, and the availability of LED lights with more ''downward shading''.

''There is a whole series of aspects that should be looked at,'' Mr Hughes said.

''The initial thing is to become far better informed.''

Interest in light pollution was sparked by Lake Hawea resident Richard Prout, who produced an 11-minute video for the meeting.

Mr Prout told the Otago Daily Times his interest in light pollution arose when a property developer installed a street light outside a house he rented at Lake Hawea and ''wrecked'' his view of the night sky.

''It never occurred to me I was going to lose the Milky Way ... I was going to lose satellites and meteors.''

After Mr Prout drew the problem to the attention of the developer, she found more suitable, but more expensive, ''low spill'' lights for the rest of the subdivision.

Mr Prout then lobbied another developer, who also agreed to install better lighting.

He calculated that if all the country's 330,000 street lights were replaced, in addition to improving the view of the night sky, the saving in electricity would be equivalent to half the electricity generated from the 8m of storage capacity in Lake Hawea.

He recognised views of the night sky were only one thing lighting engineers had to take into account when choosing street lighting, Mr Prout said.

There were also things such as safety, crime, maintenance and cost.

But he hoped that as existing lights came to the end of their life they would be replaced with more efficient ones.

Queenstown Lakes District Council senior engineer transport infrastructure and assets Richard Hilliard said the council was guided by its lighting strategy document, Southern Lights, adopted in 2006.

Because of technological advances in street lighting, the document was not ''rigidly adhered to'' because better solutions had become available ''that still adhere to the philosophy and intent of the document'', Mr Hilliard said.

mark.price@odt.co.nz