The process to becoming accredited involved a collaborative effort between key stakeholders, with Venture Southland undertaking a quality assessment of the Rakiura night skies, identifying community support for the proposed Sanctuary and overseeing the preparation of the application to the International Dark Sky Sanctuary Association.
Night Sky Quality Assessment
The assessment, commissioned in 2017 by Venture Southland confirmed the potential for Stewart Island/Rakiura to be internationally recognised as a place of outstanding sky quality by achieving the levels required to be classified as a Dark Sky Sanctuary.
Following the favourable results of the assessment, a community survey was undertaken in partnership with the Stewart Island Promotion Association to identify community support of the project.
The survey showed strong support for the creation of an internationally recognised Dark Sky Sanctuary, 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.
The application to the IDA was prepared by Venture Southland in conjunction with an independent consultant and Stewart Island Promotion Association and included a required Lightscape Management Plan, details of community support, key geographical information about Stewart Island/Rakiura and the benefits sanctuary status would bring to the island.
Lightscape Management plan & Implementation
This lightscape management plan included:
- Immediate actions for existing lighting to mitigate effects
- Evidence that two-thirds of the existing outdoor lighting fixtures could conform to the requirements.
- 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.
The application was unanimously endorsed by the IDA board and a Memorandum of Understanding between key parties has been established to demonstrate unified commitment and support for the success of the Sanctuary, and outline key responsibilities.