From The News, August 31, 2023

The Central Otago District Council is making changes to protect the region’s night skies, much to the delight of local astrophotographers.

Mayor Tim Cadogan announced the changes when he opened the Winterstellar exhibit at Central Stories in Alexandra on Tuesday night.

Floodlights illuminating the Alexandra Bridge Piers will now operate on a timer, instead of operating all night.

The council is also removing floodlights from the grounds outside Central Stories.

The changes will be put in place in the coming weeks.

Winterstellar chief executive Andy Davey said the changes were excellent and a step in the right direction.

‘‘With a simple move like that, I believe it won’t be too long before we see some really iconic pictures of big auroras over the top of . . .Bridge Hill,’’ he said.

‘‘It will results in some excellent astrophotography opportunities.’’

He approached the council with the suggested changes after the lights had impacted his and other photographers’ work.

He hoped the announcement would let people see that simple solutions could make substantial improvements.

Mr Davey said everyone in Clyde and Alexandra should have the ability to see Matariki rising.

‘‘We don’t have to sacrifice safety and security to do so.’’

The changes by the council came at a time when the region’s dark sky potential was being explored, Mr Davey said.

‘‘If we go down the path of doing nothing, then Alexandra will have the same fate as Cromwell and Queenstown . . . where the amount of light that’s emitted from the towns creates a light dome over the towns which makes them visible from many miles away.’’

This would impede any dark sky enthusiasts in the wider area because of how far this light travelled.

By making these changes, Central Otago was embarking on a path where it could promote itself as a genuine dark sky destination, Mr Davey said.

CODC head of destination Anthony Longman said the celebrations and protection of night skies benefited the entire region.

‘‘Opportunities to get communities and visitors out and experiencing the night skies will continue to build an appreciation for our unique position,’’ he said.

Central Otago had exceptional opportunities to further develop activities and businesses related to night skies, he said.

Mr Longman said that initiatives such as Winterstellar and the celebration of Matariki increased awareness and understand of the importance of New Zealand’s night skies.