Funding boost pushes Wairarapa’s starry skies towards international recognition

Published: 17 July, 2019 · Updated: 1 December, 2020

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A $100,000 investment from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will take the Wairarapa a step closer to gaining international recognition.

The investment will allow Martinborough Dark Sky Incorporated (MDSI) to complete an extensive application to gain certification from the International Dark Sky Association for protecting its exceptionally clear night skies that allow for remarkable star gazing

MDSI Chairman Lee Mauger acknowledges it’s an ambitious project which would see the region become one of just 14 International Dark Sky Reserves around the world.

“The funding is fantastic news for the local community. It gives us the resources to put forward a complex application to the International Dark Sky Association to certify that our night time skies are some of the best in the world,” Mr Mauger says.

“This would have a huge impact on Wairarapa’s draw as a world-class astro-tourism destination, with photographers, astronomers, international visitors and locals alike able to enjoy incredible views of the Milky Way at night.”

International Dark Sky Reserve status can only be achieved through very low levels of light pollution and strong community support.

“Certification would complement the range of tourism experiences that are well established in the region like vineyards, gastronomy and hiking and give us the foundations to manage growth in visitor numbers in a sustainable way,” says Mr Mauger.

“Achieving this status means this unique part of the Wairarapa will be protected for future generations, so we can keep harnessing the benefits of this incredible asset. There will be so many benefits for our community, and we can’t wait to get this moving.”

Martinborough Dark Sky Incorporated has strong support from the three district councils in the region, local iwi and businesses.

Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, located in Tekapo, is currently New Zealand’s only certified International Dark Sky Reserve. Great Barrier Island and Rakiura (Stewart Island) have also received recognition as International Dark Sky sanctuaries.

Stars in the Wairarapa sky at night by Glen Butler.

Views of Wairarapa's skies at night, photo courtesy of Glen Butler.