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Region’s starry skies gain traction

Wairarapa dark skies at its best. PHOTO/FILE

Wairarapa’s view of the night sky has attracted international eyes.

Two members of the International Dark-Sky Association have spent four hours at Stonehenge Aotearoa, enjoying a clear view of the Milky Way.

Adam Dalton and Ruskin Hartley’s visit was prompted by the region’s bid to become certified as a Dark Sky Reserve, driven by a group, Martinborough Dark Sky Society Incorporated.

“While New Zealand is a well-known astro-tourism destination, the Wairarapa region is completely unique in the size and scale of its astronomy environment,” IDA programme manager Dalton said.

“Its vast coastline and south-facing shores mean it provides brilliant views of the Milky Way, with incredibly low levels of light pollution despite being so close to a major city, Wellington.

International Dark Sky Places programme manager Adam Dalton, left , US Embassy Wellington’s Lauren Murray, chairperson of Martinborough Dark Sky Society Lee Mauger and director for the International Dark Sky Association Ruskin Hartley. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

“What’s great about Wairarapa is there’s already so much to do here in the way of sites and attractions.

“Increasing astro-tourism adds a completely different drawcard.

“What’s more, the area we are considering for certification is very broad, which means many different parts of the community working together, including three district councils.”

Dalton and Hartley are from Tucson, Arizona, USA.

International Dark Sky Reserve status can only be achieved through very low levels of light pollution and strong community support, including adoption of an outdoor lighting management plan.

“This would have a huge impact on Wairarapa’s appeal as a world-class astro-tourism destination, with photographers, astronomers, international visitors, and locals alike able to enjoy incredible views of the Milky Way at night,” MDSI chairman Lee Mauger said.

He said achieving Dark Sky Reserve Status was an ambitious project which would see the region become one of just 14 International Dark Sky Reserves around the world.

“Achieving this status means this unique part of Wairarapa will be protected for future generations, so we can keep harnessing the benefits of this incredible asset,” Mauger said.

“There will be so many benefits for our community, and we can’t wait to get this moving.”

The certification process has been backed by the Provincial Growth Fund, which announced $100,000 of funding for the project in July 2019.

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