Tourism is increasingly supporting initiatives on land and sea, such as the growth of our kiwi population. The Dark Sky Biosphere takes this to another level, where the environment, biodiversity and people come first when designing visitor experiences of the future.
Destination Hauraki Coromandel supports the trust's efforts to gain accreditation for approximately 7,000 hectares of the Kūaotunu Peninsula as an International Dark Sky Association (IDA) Dark Sky Community. By doing so, we envision long-term benefits where our visitors can contribute to enabling a healthy ecosystem for the people of Hauraki Coromandel and our environment.
- The Kūaotunu Dark Sky Community will be a base from which people can build an understanding and appreciation of the astronomical, cultural, environmental and historical aspects of the stars.
- Tātai Aroraki (Māori Astronomy), navigation and story telling, which have a particular place in our world view, can contribute much to the enjoyment of the night sky for locals and visitors alike.
- Our protected night sky will support our unique connection to both Māori and European history – as the first landing point for the earliest Māori navigators and the site of Cook’s observation of the Transit of Mercury.
- Develop a set of Lighting Guidelines that meet IDA requirements
- Implement a District Plan Change to establish those guidelines in the Dark Sky Area (shown in the map below)
- Demonstrate Community Support for the Dark Sky plan.
- Establish a Charitable Trust to provide Kaitiakitanga of our night skies
- Promote an appreciation of the night sky, of the environment and of the science of astronomy, including the effects of light pollution on community well-being
- STAGE ONE
- Kāhu Environmental Consultants to carry out an initial scoping study in May 2022. The primary objective of the scoping study is to gain an understanding of the scope of work required to establish a Dark Sky Community, and the corresponding cost.
- STAGE TWO
- Secured funding (Nov 2022) to progress IDA accreditation application
- Charitable Trust established
- Stakeholder engagement completed
- Two community education events held (one to celebrate Matariki)
- Plan change guidelines completed and socialised with IDA
IDA Accreditation Update
The project team of has established the Kūaotunu Dark Sky Trust to assume responsibility for governance of the project and the future Community. Initial members of the Trust are drawn from the Working Group and other interested parties.
Much research and consultation with other groups who have made application to the International Dark-Sky Association has been undertaken to ensure a streamlined process.
The exceptionally starry nights experienced on the Kūaotunu Peninsula are to be preserved for the future as the Biosphere Dark Sky Project secures government funding through Destination Hauraki Coromandel.
The $50,000 grant has allowed the Kūaotunu Peninsula Biosphere Working Group leading the initiative to engage experts to proceed with a request to change current lighting regulations in the Thames-Coromandel District Plan. This will help gain official recognition by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) as a Dark Sky Community.
In The Coromandel the heavens appear close to Earth and seeing constellations and shooting stars is not unusual thanks to the low density of dwellings and the absence of light pollution. The night skies north of Whitianga are particularly black, one of the reasons local astronomer Alastair Brickell set up his observatory there as Stargazers B &B and Astronomy Tours, and why the European Space Agency (ESA) has recently approached him seeking to site one of their robotic telescopes within the proposed dark sky zone. This telescope is part of a worldwide collaboration looking for space junk and potentially hazardous asteroids.
Visitor appeal for astrotourism continues to grow. The benefits that come with the knowledge of Dark Skies and the impacts of human behaviour are deeply connected with Hauraki Coromandel's Destination Management Plan.
Long Term Vision
The long-term foresight for funding and ongoing support from Destination Hauraki Coromandel for the Kūaotunu Dark Sky Community Project was to enable the region:
- to be recognised both nationally and internationally as one of the best biospheres in the world
- to build a healthy ecosystem for the people of Hauraki Coromandel and our environment
- to attract a new kind of visitor, interested in dark sky experiences and astronomy
All this supports the community outcomes outlined in the Hauraki Coromandel Destination Management Plan and aligns with the guiding stars for our actions.