Changes proposed to ensure Dark Sky status

The Aurora Australis seen from Stewart Island/ Rakiura . Photo: Rebecca Wilson Jennings
The Aurora Australis seen from Stewart Island/ Rakiura . Photo: Rebecca Wilson Jennings

Stewart Island is on a mission to keep intact its accreditation as a Dark Sky Sanctuary. However, it will need help from residents and businesses in the area.

The Southland District Council yesterday presented a draft of changes to its district plan to ensure future developments met the requirements to limit lighting.

Resource management team leader Marcus Roy said the council wanted to encourage the residents to learn about it.

"We can't enforce it and we don't want to ban all lights on the island.

"What we want is to encourage people to re-think and just use what is necessary.''

The proposed changes included that all outdoor lighting should be directed away from other properties, all fixtures should be fully shielded and no lightspill was permitted beyond the horizontal plane.

Maritime and aviation navigational aids would be the exception.

Businesses might need resource consent to prove they could comply with the lighting rules.

Mr Roy said the draft would be presented to the council next month to go out for public consultation.

He said they hoped to have it all solved by the end of next year.

Venture Southland's engaged consultant Paul Wilson said the changes would have minimal impact for Stewart Island residents.

"They basically need to point lights down low, use warm white light and make sure the lights have a time control.

"It is more about the design and the functions of it to help us to achieve the goal.''

He said the island was in a "good position'' but the aim was to fully comply with all the requirements from Dark-Sky Association in a maximum of 10 years.

Stewart Island had a 94% compliance on street lights/public protected lands, 44% on public non-protected land, 58% on private residential places and 79% on private commercial properties.

"We can't enforce the new rules on private properties but I believe we won't have any problem to achieve what we want, as the community is really supporting us.''

Stewart Island was nominated a Dark Sky Sanctuary at the beginning of the year because of its distinguished starry nights.

Community board chairman Jon Spraggon said residents would continue to do "everything possible to help''.

Mr Spraggon mentioned the board replaced all of Stewart Island's street lights last year to comply with the lighting rules.

"Forty-two streets lights came down and up went dimmer-lights.''

He also saidresidents were consulted last year and 90% supported the project.

The community was keen to protect the environment and the proposal would have little effect on their routine or activities.

Stewart Island Promotions committee member Anita Geeson said being a dark sky sanctuary was already bringing more visitors to the island in the winter.

Resident Chris Sara said the Southland plan changes could inspire other communities.

"We are happy to help and these changes could be really good for all the country.''


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