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Starstruck by region’s Dark Sky status

It’s been four months since Wairarapa received Dark Sky Reserve status – but what does it really mean?

The volunteers who campaigned tirelessly for the accreditation from the International Dark Sky Association hope to answer just that – and more – in a series of information evenings beginning this Friday as part of International Dark Sky Week.

The first of the roving public events, hosted by Wairarapa Dark Sky Association [WDA], will be held in Greytown on April 21 and include talks from Destination Wairarapa and WDA committee member Dr Tom Love. Event coordinator Charlotte Harding said the free public events will be held in each Wairarapa town over the next few months to highlight the reserve status, outline what it means, and inform people about how they can support and engage with it.

“It’s an exciting time, but the question is, what next?” Harding said.

“Over an hour, we will focus on what the status means and the opportunities for businesses and tourism now that we have the tick.”

Harding said members of the WDA committee will be at the events, which are an opportunity for the public to chat with them and ask questions.

South Wairarapa and Carterton districts became a Dark Sky Reserve – one of just 20 worldwide – on January 19, after half a decade of advocacy by WDA. The combined districts currently cover an area of 3665 square km but – with campaigning beginning this year to include Masterton in the reserve – it’s hoped 5895 square km of Wairarapa’s dark sky will ultimately be preserved in perpetuity.

WDA chair and MC for the dark sky information evenings, Viv Napier, said the status has significant environmental and economic benefits “with our international status opening up huge opportunities for tourism”.

Love, who worked extensively on WDA’s status application, said dark skies are a natural amenity, as much as a beach or forest.

“There is also a conservation element, and it’s increasingly clear that just as artificial light can disturb natural rhythms in animals, the same applies to humans.

“Artificial light is having a detrimental effect.”

Love said he will be covering those topics in an informal presentation and encouraged people to bring their questions.

“These are information sessions for local communities to explain what we have done, what it could mean for various kinds of tourism, and the good it does for the environment,” he said.

“It’s absolutely open for questions and discussions.”

Dark Sky information evening, Greytown Town Hall, Friday April 21, 6-7pm

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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