First ‘Dark Sky Park’ Designation in NZ
Wai-iti Dark Sky Park has achieved international recognition, being endorsed by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA). It is the first location to receive the ‘Dark Sky Park’ designation in New Zealand.
Wai-iti Dark Sky Park covers 135 hectares of Tasman District Council (TDC) land. It includes the Wai-iti Recreational Reserve and Tunnicliff Forest, just south of Wakefield.
“The Wai-iti Dark Sky Park has been established to preserve the area’s pristine night skies, as a place for pure enjoyment of the night sky, as well as for study of the night sky for scientific, artistic and amateur astronomy purposes,” says Ralph Bradley, chairman of the Top of the South Dark Sky Committee. “This is a small step to preserve the night sky for future generations. It is a place to teach and educate the community about the importance of the natural dark night sky for our own health and well-being and that of plants and animals in our environment.”
To celebrate this award, star parties will be held on the evenings of July 11 and 12 at the Wai-iti Recreation Reserve (weather permitting). All are welcome to attend and have a look through telescopes that will be set up in the Reserve. Astronomers will be on hand as star-guides and will explain why it is important to take action to reduce light pollution. Please register interest for these events so we have contact information for COVID-19 contact tracing precautions.
Matariki is observed in the week following this grand opening event, so right now the interest of many will be directed towards the night sky.
The Top of the South Dark Sky Committee, attached to the Nelson Science Society Astronomy Section, has worked on the application to have the Wai-iti Dark Sky Park officially recognised for the last five years. Tasman District Council Parks & Reserves, the Network Tasman Trust and Nelson Forest & Bird have contributed to the success of this project. Special thanks is also owed to the Nelson Science Society Astronomy Section and indeed the rest of the Nelson Science Society for their support.
To achieve its internationally recognised designation as Wai-iti Dark Sky Park, it had to be shown that the night sky at the park enjoyed a measurably high quality of darkness. It was also necessary to show the commitment of the local community as represented by the TDC to manage light pollution by agreeing to a Lighting Management Plan for the area.
The IDA has already recognised the Aoraki-Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, the Stewart Island/Rakiura Dark Sky Sanctuary, and the Aotea/Great Barrier Dark Sky Sanctuary with different dark sky place designations. Other groups are seeking designations for other locations. There are also on-going discussions as to what it would take for New Zealand to be recognised as a Dark Sky Nation.