A Vision for a Kaikōura Dark Sky

Our Purpose

The Dark Skies initiative in Kaikōura was formed in 2020 by a group of passionate volunteers and local astronomers. Since then the trust has grown to encompass local businesses, residents and local government organisations. Together they believe achieving International Dark Sky Sanctuary status will benefit Kaikōura’s economy, our unique environment and the health of our community. It’s aim is to achieve Dark Sky International Accredited early in 2024. Dark Sky International is an organisation which has led the worldwide movement since 1988 to protect the night from light pollution.  

Sanctuaries are the most remote (and often darkest) places in the world whose conservation state is most fragile. A Dark Sky International Sanctuary is classified as public or private land that has an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is protected for its scientific, natural, or educational value, its cultural heritage and/or public enjoyment.

Through the accreditation process we aim to encourage the enjoyment of our wonderful night sky, increase the protection of our environment and ecological systems, improve the health and wellbeing of our community and enhance our economic opportunities through astro-tourism.

Help us by donating today

We are a not-for-profit charity and rely on the generosity of volunteers, donors and grants to achieve our mission. A donation today will help us educate and inspire others to join us in protecting Kaikōura’s Dark Sky and to achieve Dark Sky Reserve status for Kaikōura. Every donation no matter how great or small is gratefully received.

Proposed Dark Sky Area

Kaikōura is a small coastal region on the East coast of the South Island. The proposed Kaikōura Dark Sky area will encompass the entire District which is approximately 2,048 km². It extends from the Pacific Ocean to the highest points of the Kaikōura ranges to the West, and along the coastline from Oaro in the South, to just beyond Kekerengu in the North. Encompassing the Ka Whata Tu o Rakihouia Conservation Park, Puhi Peaks Station and other larger private stations. The District has an estimated population of 4,260 as of June 2021. 

Home to some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most breathtaking landscapes, Mt Fyffe and the Seaward Kaikōura ranges dominate the skyline giving a stunning backdrop to the peninsular and stretching out into the ocean.  Combined with an abundance of marine mammals, unique bird life and our rich historical past Kaikōura is unlike any other place in the world. 

Quality of our Night Sky

Sky quality recordings at 5 stations were initiated in 2020 using Unihedron Sky Quality Meters (SQM-L). This instrument is extremely sensitive to dim visual light and is used to measure the luminance (brightness) of the night sky in magnitudes per square arcsecond. The higher the number, the darker the sky. A reading from 20 upwards towards 22 indicates a dark sky where stargazing is at its best, and features the Milky Way are clearly visible. 

The average darkness measurement taken across our district is 21.5 mag/arcsec(2) with a minimum of 21.17 and a maximum of 22.17 mag/arcsec(2). We can safely say that Kaikōura has outstanding dark skies for stargazing, astrophotograhy and pure enjoyment of the starlit night sky. Even better, the data below show that our sky quality doesn’t differ significantly across the district. Visitors can easily experience the Kaikōura dark skies from readily accessible venues.

Sky Quality readings taken throughout 2021:

LocationAverage mag/arcsec(2)
2 Austin St Kaikōura21.5
Puhi Puhi Station21.4
Lynton Downs Farm 21.5
SQM reading locations marked with a red dot
kaikoura dark sky sqm map

Meet the Team

We are a passionate group from a mixture of industries and backgrounds who are leading this initiative. Regular meetings are held on the fourth Friday of the month in the Encounter Cafe Conference Room @ 96 Esplanade. Everyone is welcome to come along to find out more. Reach out to us to find out when we are next meeting up.

  • Trustee & Trust Chair – Nicky McArthur 
  • Trustee & Trust Treasurer – Peter Sutton 
  • Trustee & Science & Lighting Lead – Larry Field 
  • Trustee & Outreach Lead – Brian Horsfall 
  • Trustee & IDA Dark Sky Advisor – Kyra Xavia 
  • Trustee & Kaikōura District Council CEO – Will Doughty 
  • Trustee – Chris McFetrish
  • Trust Secretary & Heritage NZ – Ann McCaw
  • Councillor Julie Howden 
  • Councillor Robbie Roche 
  • Department of Conservation representative – Jemima Rodden 
  • Hutton’s Shearwater Charitable Trust representative – Ted Howard 
  • Encounter Foundation – Lynette Buurman 
  • Destination Kaikōura – Lisa Bond
  • Tu Kete Charitable Trust – Teri Sonal 
  • Comms & Media Advisor – Lauren Martin
  • Project Coordinator – Colette Doughty 
Public Relations - Social group

Our Supporters

Thank you to all our supporters who have kindly provided free ongoing services & advice or have generously donated funds. You are amazing and the stars will shine a little brighter because of you.

Kaikoura NZ
Puhi Peaks Kaikoura
Kaikoura District Library - Kaikoura District Council
Logo - Encounter Foundation
Department of Conservation