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STEWART Island/Rakiura has been officially recognised for the exceptional quality of its night sky.

International Dark Sky Association (IDA) confirmed last week Stewart Island/Rakiura had been successful in its application to become an International Dark Sky Sanctuary.

IDA Dark Sky Places programme manager Adam Dalton said the successful accreditation, which makes Stewart Island/Rakiura the fifth Dark Sky Sanctuary, and only the second island sanctuary, in the world, was unanimously endorsed by the IDA board.

“Stewart Island/Rakiura’s pristine night skies are a rare treasure and through the sanctuary’s enacted policies the area will remain a resource in a world where access to the night sky is becoming increasingly scarce,” he said.

Alongside Stewart Island/Rakiura’s exceptional night sky quality, Mr Dalton said the application demonstrated strong community and institutional support.

“We at the IDA sincerely appreciate the work of all the project’s many stakeholders. Without their incredible efforts, this designation would not have been possible.”

The process to becoming accredited was a collaborative effort between Southland District Council, Department of Conservation, Stewart Island/Rakiura Community Board, Venture Southland (VS), Rakiura Maori Lands Trust, iwi and the Stewart Island Promotion Association.

VS general manager, business and strategic projects Steve Canny said he was thrilled with the result which promoted Southland as a top night sky destination.

“Achieving this accolade will bring a significant increase in tourism, increase employment on the island, encourage preservation of the unspoiled natural environment and have economic benefits for the whole region,” Mr Canny said.

Stewart Island Promotion Association representative Anita Geeson agreed: “The international recognition of Dark Sky Sanctuary status adds to the attraction for potential visitors, offers opportunities to island tourism operators, and acknowledges the value that the Stewart Island/Rakiura community places on environmental protection.”

To oversee the administration and advancement of Dark Sky principles on the Island, a Memorandum of Understanding between key parties had been established demonstrating unified commitment and support for the Sanctuary.

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