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$100,000 for dark sky plan

Astrophotography at Lake Wairarapa. PHOTO/CHRISTYTOMS PHOTOGRAPHY

Martinborough’s Dark Sky Society has secured $122,000 in funding – $100,000 from the Provincial Growth Fund, announced on Tuesday, with additional support from private funders.

Having Wairarapa skies recognised as an official Dark Sky Reserve has been identified in the Wairarapa Economic Development Strategy as a regional visitor and tourism priority.

The PGF funding will allow an economic plan to be developed, a prerequisite to achieving international certification.

Chairman of the society, Lee Mauger said the successful PGF application reflected hard work over the past year to demonstrate to the international regulator the outstanding quality of sky in Wairarapa and the strength of community support.

Mauger hopes to get Wairarapa classified as one of only 14 Dark Sky reserves in the world.

“We already have new pioneering local businesses forming to take advantage of this opportunity, so we now carry responsibility to complete the international certification and new light pollution mitigation policies on which these businesses depend.”

Martinborough Dark Sky Society partnered a university in Madrid to measure the light pollution from Martinborough which has been ongoing for the past eight months.

There is a need to also demonstrate community support for certification which Mauger said is growing.

Already businesses are building from the clear skies of Wairarapa and are relying on the certification.

The society hopes to have its application in by the end of the year.

It would not be just for Martinborough, but for the whole of Wairarapa.

The Dark Sky Reserve in Tekapo has too many tourists, and they are prepared to recommend Wairarapa.

The Martinborough society is helping businesses proactively plan and build for the potential benefits from the classification.

South Wairarapa Mayor Viv Napier said the announcement was a great boost for the region’s tourism sector.

“An accredited reserve will attract those who value astrotourism, which is the new sustainable international travel trend.

“Stargazing travellers are directed to locations where the night sky is darkest and clearest, steering clear of light-polluted tourist hubs or urban areas.

“Normally these are in remote spots but Wairarapa is uniquely positioned, just over the hill from the nation’s capital, to create a world-class place to view the cosmos.”

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