‘Dark sky’ reserve benefits could be truly astronomical

By Sonia Isaacs

Starry nights set to shine on Sunshine Coast

THE Sunshine Coast could become an astro-tourism drawcard thanks to a ground-breaking proposal to create an expansive Dark Sky Reserve north of Maleny.
The dark-sky movement is a global campaign committed to the reduction of light pollution to ensure greater star and night sky visibility. The push for an accessible regional reserve, is gathering momentum with Sunshine Coast Council unveiling a proposal to establish a dedicated Dark Sky Reserve at its November 16 ordinary meeting.
Australasian Dark Sky Alliance Founder, Dr Ken Wishaw, said he was delighted that this proposal would be moving to the public consultation stage in the first half of 2024, and sincerely hoped residents would get behind the campaign.
“This is a great step forward and we are lucky to have environmentally conscious and forward thinking Council representatives that support this innovative proposal to minimise light pollution and preserve the integrity of our night skies,”he said.
Informed by preliminary investigations, the proposed Dark Sky Reserve would encompass almost 900 square kilometres in the Mary River Catchment and adjoining national parks, traversing an area from North Maleny through the Obi Obi valley and beyond Kenilworth, and parts of the Montville and Mapleton region.
Division 5 Councillor, Winston Johnston, said the proposed dark sky reserve, which would cover 38 per cent of the region, would bring a variety of benefits for both people and nature in our Sunshine Coast Biosphere.
“We recognise close to 15,000 members of our community call this area home, including those in Maleny, Mapleton, Montville, Witta, Flaxton and Conondale,” he said.
“This proposed designation seeks to continue to support and protect the landscape and character of their neighbourhoods, including the unique night-sky values.
“A dark night sky improves community wellbeing and is important to our native wildlife that rely on dark night skies to move, feed or reproduce safely at night.
“This designation would position our region to become an astro-tourism destination and help support our hinterland communities, while reducing emissions from excess lighting.”Environment Portfolio Councillor, Peter Cox, said pursuing an official designation would ensure dark sky quality would continue to be protected into the future. “This reserve, if successfully designated, would be one of only two of its kind in Australia,” he said.