All eyes are now looking to the Stewart Island/Rakiura night sky with the Island officially recognised for its exceptional night sky quality.

The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) has today confirmed that Stewart Island/Rakiura has been successful in its application for the establishment of an International Dark Sky Sanctuary.

IDA Dark Sky Places Program Manager Adam Dalton said the successful accreditation, which makes Stewart Island/Rakiura the fifth Dark Sky Sanctuary, and only the second island sanctuary, in the world, was unanimously endorsed by the IDA Board.

“Stewart Island/Rakiura’s pristine night skies are a rare treasure and through the sanctuary’s enacted policies the area will remain a resource in a world where access to the night sky is becoming increasingly scarce,” Dalton said.

Alongside highlighting Stewart Island/Rakiura’s exceptional night sky quality, Dalton said the application demonstrated strong community and institutional support.

“We at the IDA sincerely appreciate the work of all the project’s many stakeholders. Without their incredible efforts, this designation would not have been possible,” he said.

The application was prepared by an independent consultant and Venture Southland in conjunction with the Stewart Island Promotion Association.

Venture Southland GM for Business and Strategic Projects Steve Canny said he was thrilled with the result which promotes the Southland region as a top night sky destination.

“Achieving this accolade will bring a significant increase in tourism, increase employment on the island, encourage preservation of the unspoiled natural environment and have economic benefits for the whole region,” Canny said.

Stewart Island Promotion Association representative Anita Geeson agreed that the future was looking bright for Stewart Island/Rakiura.

“The international recognition of Dark Sky Sanctuary status adds to the attraction for potential visitors, offers opportunities to island tourism operators, and acknowledges the value that the Stewart Island/Rakiura community places on environmental protection,” Geeson said.

Geeson said the process to becoming accredited involved a collaborative effort between Southland District Council, Department of Conservation, Stewart Island/Rakiura Community Board, Venture Southland, Rakiura Maori Lands Trust, iwi and the Stewart Island Promotion Association.

To oversee the administration and advancement of Dark Sky principles on the Island, a Memorandum of Understanding between key parties has been established demonstrating unified commitment and support for the Sanctuary.

Venture Southland commissioned an assessment of the Stewart Island/Rakiura night sky in 2017 as part of a project to assess astro-tourism opportunities in Southland.

The results of the assessment showed the Island to be a place of outstanding sky quality, achieving the levels required to be classified as a Dark Sky Sanctuary. This outcome, along with the strong level of community support evident, put in motion the process to apply for the successful Dark Sky Sanctuary accreditation.