New Zealand’s Great Barrier Island has become the first island in the world to be designated an International Dark Sky Sanctuary. Located off the north-eastern coast of Auckland, the island’s night skies will now be officially protected.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says the island community is focused on protecting and preserving its stunning natural beauty.
“Great Barrier Island is a place of rugged beauty and untouched wilderness,” he said, “and is one of the most tranquil and unspoilt places in the wider Auckland region.”
Already, the island is ‘off the grid’, meaning light pollution is minimised. According to Tourism New Zealand, the definition of a Dark Sky Sanctuary is public or private land that has an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights, and a nocturnal environment that is protected for its scientific, natural or educational value, cultural heritage and/or public enjoyment.
Great Barrier Island is only the third place in the world to receive this designation, following New Mexico, in the United States, and Chile. Also known by its Māori name, Aotea, the island has a population of 900 people, and more than 60 percent of the 285 sq km is public land administered by the Department of Conservation. The destination is popular among adventurers and nature lovers, with walking trails through native forest, natural hot springs, fantastic scuba diving, fishing, surfing, kayaking, mountain biking, and camping.