Wairarapa looks to the stars

Wairarapa is aiming to become the world’s largest dark sky reserve.

Led by Wairarapa Dark Sky Society, the goal has been backed by local astronomers, businesses, conservationists and councils and the region is in the process of becoming accredited by the International Dark-Sky Association.

Becky Bateman, who runs local astronomy tour company Under The Stars, believes Wairarapa is perfectly located for clear skies.

“One side is covered by water, so you have nothing creating light pollution there, and on the western side you have the Tararua Range which helps catch the cloud,” she said.

The plan will see streetlights change to warmer-hued 3000K bulbs, floodlights angled down, restrictions on event lighting, and communities encouraged to make small changes at home.

“People worry they’ll need to have their lights off at 10pm, but it’s not true,” she said.

“It’s not a wide ban – just use lights sensibly and turn them off when you’re done.”

Bateman said the project has major benefits for the region, including reduced exposure to blue light after sunset, healthier sleep and business opportunities.

In addition to stargazing tours, local businesses have started offering digital detox retreats, themed artwork, and even dark sky underwear.

If approved by the local councils, the reserve could be officially recognised by February, 2021.