Celebrating International Dark Sky Week

On 26 March 2024 Aotea Great Barrier Island made a “Dark Sky Proclamation” to mark International Dark Sky Week.

“A Dark Sky Proclamation is a ceremonial document that a community or organisation signs as an official statement of support for dark night skies,” said Aotea/ Great Barrier Local Board chair Izzy Fordham. 

“We’re thrilled to be doing our bit to promote the dark sky movement and push for less light pollution around the world.”

In 2017, Aotea became the third ever place in the world to achieve the status of International Dark Sky Sanctuary, and the first island to receive this honour.   To this day, it remains one of very few islands with sanctuary status.

“No mains power, no streetlights and very little light pollution after dark have earned us the status,” says Izzy. “We like to say over here that on a clear night you can read a newspaper by the moon.”

Close to one hundred places globally signed the International Dark Sky Association proclamation in 2023 – this year the association is aiming for 200. Our proclamation has now been accepted, as of 28 March, and it looks like we were the first place in New Zealand!

“One of the things that the proclamation highlights is the fact the night sky is everyone’s shared heritage and we need to protect it,” says Izzy.

“It also points out that light pollution has significant impacts on ecology and human health. Here on Aotea for example, the Takoketai (Aotea Black Petrel) relies on an undisturbed night environment to fledge and thrive.”

Good Heavens has been operating since the start of the Aotea Dark Sky Sanctuary.

Over the last seven years they have carried out hundreds of dark sky experiences and have guided a few thousand stargazers through Aotea’s dark starry sky. The tours are run by the magnificent guides and owners of Good Heavens, Deborah Kilgallon and Hilde Hoven.

Left: Deborah Kilgallon, Right: Hilde Hoven

“When you spend time in nature, it often takes a little while before nature comes to you” says Hilde Hoven, Good Heavens guide, “it takes 30 minutes for your night vision to adjust before you see the full magnitude of the dark sky and before these treasures truly reveal themselves.”

To celebrate the occasion, the Dark Sky Enthusiasts group are putting on two free community stargazing events. All are welcome!

3 April at Tryphena Social Club from 8:00 – 9:30pm

5 April at Claris Sports Club from 8:00 – 9:30pm

In addition, for the first week of April locals can receive a discount of 50% with code IDSWLOCAL for regular Good Heavens tours on Medlands Beach.

Deb and Hilde joined Tim in the AoteaFM studio recently to talk about Good Heavens and how they both landed on Aotea. Read the full article and listen to the podcast here.

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