Wairarapa Dark Sky Association _ Project Update, September 2021

Sponsors, members and supporters:

After nearly four years of hard mahi, the WDSA committee expects to file its formal application for international Dark Sky Reserve status by month’s end! We are pleased to report our group was able to move forward quite quickly to preparing the formal application once the South Wairarapa and Carterton District Councils signed off the region’s lighting plan changes at the end of June.

As you may know, formal lighting plans which meet International Dark Sky Association requirements are critical for any application to be accepted and proceed. WDSA had kept up its liaison with IDA through the plan process to ensure the changes (which will be significant as the region goes forward) met all requirements.

IDA clearly signalled its approval of the proposed plan changes, testament to the work which went into them from the councils and their consultant.  

We submitted an initial draft for the IDA

The application document, including maps, plans and photos, is in final form, with an initial draft filed to IDA for their comment, as required. It has involved many hours of effort by our volunteer team,  with data collection/processing and drafting the two major work streams over the past several weeks.

Once the IDA has reviewed the draft and provided feedback, WDSA expects to submit the final version of the application in the next few weeks _ regardless of Covid-19 status.

While we have met our internal completion deadline, the IDA has advised that at its end it is currently inundated with applications _ meaning WDSA will be joining a queue seeking approvals.

Our hope is that we will emerge from the IDA process by no later than early next year, or sooner.

Support by all four regional bodies (South Wairarapa, Carterton, Masterton, Wellington Regional Council) has been outstanding and deserves public recognition.

The group is currently assessing a proposal to enter Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with these bodies as WDSA’s status changes and it becomes the body responsible for maintaining the dark sky reserve’s status into the future.

The IDA requires mandatory annual reporting on developments _ particularly improvements _ to the reserve, based on the benchmarks established at its approval point.

Our sponsors

WDSA also wants to acknowledge its sponsors, including the Provincial Growth Fund; Westpac Bank; U.S. Embassy; South Wairarapa, Carterton and Wellington Regional Councils; plus the businesses which have funded and host night sky-monitoring TESS meters across the region _ providing a permanent data record of the dark skies:

The Claremont Hotel

Pain & Kershaw Martinborough

The Martinborough Hotel

Ata Rangi Martinborough

Mitre 10 Martinborough

Susan Stephen & Co Realty

Web site design and support:


Formal letters of support for the Dark Sky Reserve, which help indicate public support for the dark sky project by official groups and individuals, have been received from:

Prof Yvonne Cagle _ M.D. Astronaut, Aerospace Professor

Waka Kotahi _ NZ Transport Agency

Maritime NZ

Department of Conservation

South Wairarapa District Council

Masterton District Council

South Wairarapa Maori Standing Committee

Martinborough Community Board

Greytown Community Board

Carterton District Council

Kieran McAnulty, MP

Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister

Destination Wairarapa

Heritage NZ

Wellington Astronomical Society

New Zealand Astrobiology Network

Phoenix Astronomical Society

NZ Forest & Bird

South Wairarapa District Council has supported proposals by WDSA to ensure the preservation of the Category 1 listed Heritage building Carkeek Observatory, built near Featherston  in 1868 and likely the oldest remaining observatory of its type in New Zealand.

An archeological architect is working on plans to protect and preserve the remains of this wooden structure, built by retired government Controller of Customs Stephen Carkeek for atronomy and celestial observations.

The iconic “ruins” – so-called by Heritage NZ in their heritage listing report – can be preserved, and work is under way to plan the process involved.

Like a moth to a flame

Light pollution is bad for insects too.

The story of the dark sky is more than one of stargazing and astronomy. It has become one of human and animal /insect /plant well-being as light pollution intensifies and spreads itself through its terrestrial impacts. This BBC science item is the latest to underline the impact of light on the natural world.

Ray Lilley, Wairarapa Dark Sky Association
Continue reading “Like a moth to a flame”

Statement: Wairarapa Dark Sky Association _ 30 June 2021

                 Wairarapa Councils take key step toward international dark sky status

“This is a critical step for the Wairarapa community as it heads towards establishing a dark sky reserve across the region,” chair of Wairarapa Dark Sky Association, Viv Napier, said Wednesday.

The comments follow approvals by South Wairarapa and Carterton District Councils of lighting plan ordinances that will ensure outside lighting in the two areas meets international dark sky reserve requirements.

At meetings Wednesday the councils formally adopted new lighting controls which are needed to comply with the rules of the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) for formal dark sky reserve status.

The changes will allow the two councils to better manage and control light pollution across the region.

“South Wairarapa and Carterton are ahead of most other councils in incorporating dark sky lighting controls in their district plans,”  Viv Napier said.

The councils, together with Masterton District Council, have worked to develop the new lighting rules over nearly two years. The IDA has already indicated strong support for the rule changes, expected to come into force almost immediately.

New lighting rules need to be in place before the dark sky group can submit a dark sky reserve application to the IDA.

“The international body had given its endorsement to the plans ahead of their adoption,” Mrs Napier said.

Key changes to the current lighting ordinances include:

– new outdoor lighting must be tilted down or shielded so the light goes out and down _ preventing glare and sky glow;

– ensure the “colour temperature” of lights is 3,000 Kelvin or under; higher Kelvin ratings mean the light is whiter and contains more undesirable “blue” light;

– outdoor lights on a 5-minute or less lighting sensor/timer are exempt from the above rules;

– sport and recreation lighting to address/control light pollution, requiring fewer resource consent approvals for sports recreation facilities to install compliant outdoor lighting.

– the new rules only apply to new lighting. The aim within 10 years: 80% of our outdoor lighting will comply with International Dark Sky requirements. When lighting is replaced or renewed it should comply with the new rules.

“Our volunteer group wants to put on record its sincere thanks to Councillors and planning staff for the interest and support they have given the dark sky conservation project which we began nearly four years ago,” she said. “Good things always take a little time.”



Formal international dark sky reserve status will be sought later this year.

South Wairarapa, Carterton and Masterton District Councils, together with Greater Wellington Regional Council, have supported the international dark sky accreditation process for the range of environmental, conservation, economic, social and cultural benefits it will offer to the region.

Viv Napier, chair WDSA (021499764)

Blue Light Aotearoa

In 2018, The Royal Society of New Zealand, Te Apārangi published a study called: “Evidence Summary on how our increasing exposure to artificial blue light is putting us at risk in New Zealand“.

This paper summaries the latest evidence on this topic and explores what we can do to protect ourselves and the environment from the effects of exposure to artificial blue light outside daylight hours.



Skyglow is the brightening of the night sky over inhabited areas, which reduces the contrast of stars or other celestial objects against the dark sky background. Some stars will blend into the background and become indistinguishable. 

A cold and crisp winters night as the Milky Way rises high above the glow of the capital city, Wellington in New Zealand.


Clutter is the bright, confusing and excessive groupings of light sources, such as many lit advertisements signs in one place. 

At night, too many lights may generate confusion, distract from obstacles (including those that they may be intended to illuminate), and potentially cause accidents.

Photo by Benjamin Suter from Pexels

Clutter is particularly noticeable on roads where the street lights are badly designed, or where brightly lit advertisements surrounds the roadways. Depending on the motives of the person or organization that installed the lights, their placement and design can even be intended to distract drivers, and can contribute to accidents.