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Green light for outdoor lighting rules

March 12, 2020 March 2020 No Comments

South Wairarapa District Council has given the green light for work on a plan change to the outdoor lighting rules of the Wairarapa area, a change which will support the proposed Wairarapa Dark Sky Reserve. The change to the current lighting ordinances is needed to ensure minimal evening light pollution from outside lighting to protect the region’s high quality night sky environment.

This work on lighting controls began in late 2018 when street lights throughout the Wairarapa’s five main towns were changed, bringing them into compliance with International Dark Sky Association (IDA) regulations which limit public light pollution. 

That project won Martinborough a “3K City” award from the IDA for street lighting meeting its 3,000 Kelvin lighting maximum _ required for a location to be certified as a dark sky reserve. The reward was the first granted to a Southern Hemisphere town.

The lighting change helped cut night light “spill” from the region’s street lights, and was immediately recorded by international satellite systems passing over the region at night. It also reduced power bills for the three local bodies involved.

Mayor Alex Beijin noted the changes would provide “safe and good lighting which will meet the requirements of International Dark Sky Certification.”  The lighting plan changes would cover new and existing lighting, and did not mean “everyone has to go out and change their lights now,” he told councillors.

South Wairarapa District Council, along with Carterton and Masterton District Councils, are supporting an application by Martinborough Dark Sky Society/Wairarapa Dark Sky Association for the South Wairarapa and Carterton areas to be certified as an International Dark Sky Reserve. 

‘Light pollution is the biggest threat to the gaining of certification, as outdoor light pollution hinders the ability for people to view the night sky,” officers told Council members. 

“To qualify as an International Dark Sky Reserve, light pollution within the region must be controlled to meet certification requirements,” the report said. 

 The Council noted the preliminary work was “to start a public conversation, to approve a plan change” _ with a cost/benefit analysis and social and cultural benefits to be further explored.

It said the only risks to the SWDC would be “non-certification” as a Dark Sky Reserve.  The Plan Change needed to be undertaken and finalised by September 2020 to support the Martinborough Dark Sky Society’s application for international accreditation for the new reserve. 

During discussion, sports grounds lighting was seen as an issue by a few councillors. Others noted that timing devices and motion sensors would help reduce “light spill.”  The new lighting rules would help “avoid unnecessary light pollution, and assist native flora and fauna.”

Moved Councillor Vickery and Seconded Councillor Colenso: “that preparation of a plan change to lighting ordinances” proceed. Agreed.  

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