Positive Step forward in Kaikōura’s bid for international DarkSky Accreditation

On Wednesday 31 January, Mayor and Councillors unanimously choose to adopt a draft private plan change prepared and lodges by the Kaikōura Dark Sky Trust. The draft plan change will support the application for the District of Kaikōura to become and an internationally recognised Dark Sky Place.  

Nicky McArthur, Chair of the Kaikōura Dark Sky Trust feels passionately that we continue to celebrate the awe and wonder of our amazing night sky. We owe it to all, current and future generations to protect the night sky and that we recognise the importance of reducing light pollution which affects not only our precious environment but our health too.  According to International DarkSky only 1% of outdoor lighting worldwide is actually considered useful, 99% is wasted, shining where and when it is not needed. This highlights the economic benefits to all users when considering your lighting. Not to mention mitigating contribution to climate change.

A critical part of the application to the DarkSky International board is that local authorities need to manage exterior lighting.   The plan change will address this under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) policy. The plan change will ensure lighting provisions specifically address light pollution that adversely effect the night sky directing exterior lighting downward to where it is needed, not into the sky.  On Wednesday 31 January, Mayor and Councillors unanimously chose to adopt the draft plan change and move forward with the process of public notification and request for submissions.  A factsheet with lots of questions and answers can be viewed here

The application will be split into two areas. Approximately 98% of the district could become a Dark Sky Sanctuary know for it’s exceptional quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment (55% of the area is held as protected land). The remaining area covering the township of Kaikōura and surrounding areas as a proposed Dark Sky Community. This area has a higher density of population and contains nearly all the public lighting, all sports lighting and all illuminated signs.

Accreditation would be awarded by the DarkSky International body who are passionate about supporting those who are trying to protect and recognise dark sky places across the globe. Accreditation is simply seen as an award/stamp of approval and it has no governing or controlling rights.  Check out – https://darksky.org.

IT IS ALSO IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT THE PROPOSED RULES would only affect NEW lighting. Your current lights would not need to be altered now. We would encourage that when existing fixtures and bulbs are replaced or upgraded within the next 10 years, that they meet the new standards.  The new standards are very achievable and you may well wish to go over and beyond these. Lights which can’t be shielded, or need to be brighter than 3000 Kelvin can also still comply as long as they are placed on a 5 minute timer. 

The current Kaikōura District Council street lights are already converted for Dark Sky accreditation. Most of the street lights are now a warm white (2700 Kelvin), they are all fully shielded LED and are able to be dimmed. This has already resulted in up to 30% reduction of electricity cost for Council streetlights.  Later in 2024, there will hopefully be an upgrade to all State Highway 1 lights undertaken by Waka Kotahi in line with the DarkSky requirements.  Public spaces will continue to be lit as normal, with the only changes relating to colour temperatures and downward pointing light shielding occurring over time as lights are upgraded or replaces. 

A Dark Sky FAQ fact sheet can be viewed here

The Kaikōura Dark Sky Trust will be attending this year’s A&P Show on Saturday 24th February and are available for any questions. 

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