INDEPENDENT NEWS

Dark Sky Park An Option To Extend Tourism In Fiordland

Published: Wed 28 Apr 2021 09:44 AM
Fiordland’s brilliant night sky could soon be as much an attraction to domestic and international visitors as its stunning daytime scenery.
Great South has been working with the Fiordland community and stakeholders on the possibility of it becoming an accredited Dark Sky Park with the International Dark Sky Association.
Great South GM Tourism and Events Bobbi Brown said the night sky over Fiordland was of exceptional quality and early indications suggest it would meet the required level for international designation and potentially add another string to the bow for tourism operators.
“If Fiordland National Park received IDA Park designation it would make it the second largest Dark Sky Park in the world, second only to Death Valley National Park in the USA.”
Worldwide interest in the southern night sky and the Aurora Australis is already a key tourism drawcard for Southland with Stewart Island/Rakiura official IDA Dark Sky Sanctuary designation in 2019.
“An official Dark Sky Park in Fiordland would complement that and enhance promotion of the wider Southland region as a top night sky observation destination,” Mrs Brown said.
Local interest in the idea is evident, with a group of 22 amateur astronomers, astrophotographers and tourism operators attending a two-day course with renown astronomer John Drummond and dark sky advocates Nalayini and Gareth Davies in Te Anau this month.
“Some of the attendees were keen on starting a Dark Sky community group to help explore opportunities.”
Potential astrotourism businesses can operate without official designation, however IDA Park accreditation would give Fiordland international status and help attract visitors, particularly during winter when viewing was at its best, and extend the tourist season.
Fiordland Community Board chair Sarah Greaney is enthusiastic about the opportunity.
“We have amazing night skies here in Fiordland, completely unpolluted by light. The opportunity for us to become a Dark Skies Park opens up possibilities for businesses, photographers and many others to share this with the world, so it’s very exciting to see this progressing.”

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