First to be designated dark sky precinct

Naseby is a step closer to becoming an International Dark Sky Community after the local council signed it off as the first dark sky precinct in Central Otago.

Changes to rules governing light use in the township and on nearby rural land to specifically protect the quality of Naseby’s dark skies from light pollution were agreed by the Central Otago District Council last week.

The new rules allow for lighting codes for precincts, local monitoring of compliance of the lighting codes, and work to increase local awareness of light.

The decision was taken at Wednesday’s meeting of the council, where plan change 22 was adopted, which introduces a framework for mapping dark sky precincts.

Community development organisation Naseby Vision has been instrumental in pursuing the protection of the night sky from light pollution.

Former Naseby Vision member Jill Wolff said the idea started with a few casual conversations.

Those conversations turned to ideas and then a solid project after a visit from two Dark Sky International representatives, who were "blown away" with Naseby’s dark skies, she said.

The journey was not yet over, however.

Naseby Vision had been working with the International Dark Sky Association to achieve an International Dark Sky Community accreditation for Naseby — which would be the first of its type in New Zealand and only the second in the southern hemisphere.

Other night sky accreditations in New Zealand are for "reserve" and "sanctuary" areas that do not have urban development.

Locals could be confident the night sky would be protected well into the future, Ms Wolff said.

"The other wonderful thing is that plan change 22 has been written with the intent of being able to spread night sky protection and opportunities across Central Otago when the time is right," Ms Wolff said.

"So Naseby’s journey is just ‘one small step’, as someone said way up there in the night sky many years ago.

"We look forward to everyone joining us for our celebration in the not-too-distant future."

Hearings panel chairman Neil Gillespie congratulated Naseby Vision on its plans and said the adoption of this plan change was unique.

"Who would have thought that protecting our skies was something that our community thought would be important enough for them to champion the changes that are now incorporated in our district plan?"