Threat to night sky view

Ian Griffin says Dunedin is one of the ''very few cities where a world-class view of the night sky is accessible to the general public\". Photo: ODT
Ian Griffin says Dunedin is one of the ''very few cities where a world-class view of the night sky is accessible to the general public". Photo: ODT
Astronomer Ian Griffin has warned Dunedin's chances of developing lucrative dark skies tourism will be harmed by approving subdivision development at ''world class'' star-gazing sites on the Otago Peninsula.

Dr Griffin was commenting in his submission on day two of a Dunedin resource consent hearing.

Peninsula Holdings Trust came to the first day of the hearing on Tuesday, with a proposal to cut number of houses in the area from eight to four.

Landowner Steven Clearwater said he recently signed a conditional sale agreement for some of the land involved to a nearby farmer.

The trust originally applied to the Dunedin City Council to subdivide rural zoned land at 78 Cape Saunders Rd, with a capital value of almost $1.9 million.

The initial plan was to create 10 new sites of between 2ha and 194ha on the land between Hoopers Inlet and Papanui Inlet, and on the northern slopes of Mt Charles.

Many submitters yesterday objected to the development proposals. They said the proposals did not fit planning provisions and would set a damaging precedent for the future.

Dr Griffin said it was known ''night sky tourism has enormous potential'' to attract extra tourists to Dunedin, particularly during the traditional winter low season, when the long nights were ''better for astronomical observation''.

The peninsula was already recognised as ''an area of outstanding natural beauty'' and every day its flora and fauna attracted many tourists whose spending was ''important to the local economy''.

Dunedin was one of the ''very few cities where a world-class view of the night sky is accessible to the general public within a 20 minute derive of the city centre''.

Developing houses on the lots, with associated light pollution, would have ''significantly negative impact'' on views from popular night sky observing viewpoints, and once development occurred ''it will not be possible to turn back the clock''.

The applicant earlier submitted the proposed four houses would be integrated into the environment, and careful siting of building platforms and development controls would avoid significant adverse landscape and visual effects.

In an earlier submission, Papanui Inlet Rd resident Graeme Granger objected to the proposed development and said it was ''all too easy in these sensitive landscape areas, to destroy the very values that make them unique''.

Another submitter, Hamish Forrester, said ''I'm a Nimby [Not In My Back Yard]'', but added that concerned local people following a Nimby spirit had long played a positive role by standing up against ''inappropriate'' development, including an earlier proposal, decades ago, to fill in and reclaim Hoopers Inlet.

Halving the number of lots for proposed development had simply changed the development proposal from one that was ''ridiculously inappropriate'' to one that was ''highly inappropriate'', Mr Forrester said.



A half hour drive to Middlemarch or similar could provide any such tourists with the same or possibly better sky views. This seems a fairly flimsy reason to block development.

Perhaps Dr Griffin should do a bit more homework on what they do in Tucson concerning light pollution, Tucson city and Pima County introduced ordinances to control light pollution in 1972. This has not stopped the establishment of housing and industrial estates in any way whatsoever.

As a Peninsular resident from Broad Bay I am very concerned with this proposal. After living in Wanaka for many years, this is what I would call the thin edge of the wedge. Dunedin needs to recognize that the way we are going to improve, as a community, is by not killinng the very things that we can use to generate incomes from. This is going to benefit very few people at the cost of many, with the almost doubling of tourist numbers in the country over the last few years, this is part of the way forward for city's like Dunedin. We are attracting more and more tourists who spend money that creates jobs and feeds money into the local economy. If Dunedin improves it's current tourist attractions and markets them well then we could improve our city, together, and all benefit from the future massive growth in tourism that is predicted. Don’t destroy the natural beauty for the benefit of a couple of people and pull that wedge out before it really does some damage to our city as a whole. This development and ones like it are not the way forward.

Concerned citizen.



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