Stewart Island/Rakiura has a unique opportunity to be internationally recognised as a Dark Sky Sanctuary.

Stewart Island/ Rakiura is renowned for the quality of its night sky, and Stewart Island Promotion Association has long been an advocate for the establishment of a Dark Sky Sanctuary on the Island.

For a Dark Sky Sanctuary to be established the night sky quality of Stewart Island/ Rakiura must achieve the levels set by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA), and the community must be supportive of the development.

Dark Sky Sanctuary

An IDA Dark Sky Sanctuary (DSS) is a public or private land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, or educational value, its cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment. A Dark Sky Sanctuary differs from a Dark Sky Park or Reserve in that it is typically situated in a very remote location. The isolation of a sanctuary limits the opportunities for public outreach, and therefore increases awareness of these fragile sites and promotes their long-term conservation

International Dark Sky Association

Night Sky Quality Assessment

Venture Southland commissioned an assessment of the Stewart Island/Rakiura night sky in 2017.

The results proved the islands potential to be internationally recognised as a place of outstanding sky quality, achieving the levels required to be classified as a Dark Sky Sanctuary (according to International Dark Sky Association standards).

Community Support

Following the favourable results of the assessment and a feasibility study, a community survey was undertaken in partnership with the Stewart Island Promotion Association.

The survey showed strong support for the creation of an internationally recognised Dark Sky Sanctuary on the island, with 92 per cent of respondents supportive of the Island gaining accreditation.

Survey participants identified perceived benefits around tourism, night sky preservation, environmental protection, and provided a strong case to continue pursuing official accreditation for the island.

International Dark Sky Application Process

Lightscape Management plan & Implementation

In order to make an official application for dark sky accreditation, a lightscape management plan for the Island must be created and then implemented.

This lightscape management plan will include:

  • Immediate actions required for existing lighting to mitigate effects
  • Evidence that two-thirds of the existing outdoor lighting fixtures conform to the requirements.
  • Proposed plans to bring 90% of lighting into line with International Dark Sky Association requirements within the next 5 years and 100% of lighting to this level within the next 10 years.

As part of this process all lighting on the island will be assessed with recommendations for improvement made where necessary.


Ab official application for Stewart Island/ Rakiura to become a Dark Sky Sanctuary has been prepared by an independent consultant in conjunction with Venture Southland and Stewart Island Promotion Association.

The application includes a Lightscape Management Plan, details of community support, key geographical information about Stewart Island and Rakiura, which translates to ‘land of the glowing skies’, and highlights the benefits sanctuary status would bring to the island.

The application was submitted late September, it is thought the outcome of the application may be known by December 2018. 

If successful, a sanctuary would provide the ideal opportunity to showcase the special characteristics of the southern night sky, and would see Stewart Island/Rakiura become the fifth Dark Sky Sanctuary in the world.

For further information contact
Amie Reid - Venture Southland

Amie Reid

Tourism Product Development Coordinator