Great Barrier Island named newest 'Dark Sky' sanctuary

Great Barrier Island is renowned for its beauty - but its also known for something else less immediately obvious - no streetlights.

No mains power means Great Barrier is one of the best places in the world to stargaze, and after nearly a year of box-ticking from motivated locals, the island has become the world's newest Dark Sky sanctuary; the third in the world.

During months of darkness-testing, astronomers found the island was even dimmer than their instrument could measure.

Great Barrier resident Gendie said they had to get in touch with the manufacturer and ask if those reading were possible, "it turned out that yes, you can have it that dark!".

She said it was "almost like the opposite of vertigo, I suppose, you can be immersed in the stars, it's just amazing".

Despite a few locals having to change their habits, ten percent of the islands' nine hundred residents have put up their hands to take astronomy courses to become potential tour guides.

"We found four outdoor lights that were pointing upwards. They weren't huge polluters but they were making a difference…all four of them agreed [to point the lights downward] straight away."

It's hoped the new Sanctuary status will draw in visitors to help businesses that struggle through winter, and also keep the pristine island free of major development.

Great Barrier joins Tekapo as one of two protected spots in New Zealand. But while Tekapo is a Dark Sky Reserve, Great Barrier is a Sanctuary - with slightly harsher darkness requirements to qualify.

Only two other spots in the world, in Chile and the United States - have Dark Sky Sanctuary status. 

Residents are getting ready for the Sanctuary's launch party on Saturday to celebrate their new, official status as one of the darkest places on earth.


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