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Dark sky reserve moving forward


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‘Lights out by 10pm or no reserve!’ was the verdict from South Wairarapa District Council at their meeting on Wednesday, in pursuit of Dark Sky accreditation for the region.

The Wairarapa Dark Sky Association will be applying for this accreditation from the International Dark Sky Association, based in the United States, which would cement southern Wairarapa as a special star-gazing area.

The motion [passed unanimously] meant that sports lighting curfews from 10pm, as well as low-Kelvin lighting, would become the norm in South Wairarapa and Carterton, in an effort to curb light pollution.

It was intended that this plan change would only apply to the South Wairarapa and Carterton districts at this stage. This area was identified in the plan presented to the council as the ‘Dark Sky Management Area’.

SWDC along with Carterton and Masterton councils are responsible for approving changes to the Wairarapa Combined District Plan [shared among the three councils], and a ‘Plan Change’ is the process required to change these existing rules – in this case the rules around artificial lighting.

If the Dark Sky Reserve status is granted, it would make it the largest such one in the world, primarily centred around Aorangi Forest Park, and possibly growing to comprise the Masterton region as well, although the initial area would be in Carterton and South Wairarapa districts only.

The recommendation, titled ‘The Draft Wairarapa International Dark Sky – Outdoor Artificial Lighting Plan Change’, passed unanimously and would now be subject to full public notification under the Resource Management Act 1991.

Council approval was required to proceed to public notification, which is now proposed for mid to late September.

To satisfy some of the requirements of the Dark Sky bid, Debbie Donaldson of Perception Planning, and Russell O’Leary, group manager planning and environment at SWDC, discussed the changes that would be needed with councillors, who passed the motion with one important change, agreeing that the reserve would be a major attraction for the region.

Councillor Alistair Plimmer made the point that an exemption should be made for events requiring late-night light, such as night-time sports games, or festivals such as 121 last March, which drew thousands to the region.

Mayor Alex Beijen suggested that the motion be passed with these considerations acted upon, so as to not complicate the requirements for late-night lighting.

There were concerns that late-night light might even require a resource consent, which was not popular with councillors. After this amendment, councillors were happy and the plan was set into action.

What’s Kelvin?

Kelvin is a measurement of temperature, like degrees Celsius. In this context it refers to colour temperature, or the ‘warmth’ of a light source.

The bright bluish light we see from security lights, or modern LED car headlights [5000K], are higher on the Kelvin scale than warm orange lights, such as older street lamps [2000-3000K].

The higher the Kelvin, the greater the light pollution. SWDC has agreed to install only lower Kelvin lighting from now on, and to replace lighting with lower Kelvin options.

This was being done to support the bid for Dark Sky Reserve accreditation, from the International Dark Sky Association, based in the United States.

Excessive outdoor lighting also disturbs nocturnal wildlife and their habitat, negatively affecting birds, insects, turtles, fish and other species.

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