Dark Sky reserve rising

Sunshine Coast set to be sustainability star

By Sonia Isaacs

THE Sunshine Coast is on track to be an internationally recognised sustainability star, with plans to establish a designated dark sky site gaining traction.
The bid to establish an expansive 900 square kilometre Dark Sky Reserve over parts of North Maleny and the Obi Obi Valley is now well underway, with public consultation expected to kick off in June 2024.
Council is commencing a phased community engagement process on its proposal to establish a Sunshine Coast Dark Sky Reserve through the International Dark Sky Places Program.
A Dark Sky Reserve is one of the five designation types offered under the International accreditation program which seeks to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education.
If successful, the almost 900 square kilometres Sunshine Coast Dark Sky Reserve would formally recognise and protect the quality and integrity of the night sky and nocturnal environment, traversing an area from North Maleny through the Obi Obi Valley and beyond Kenilworth, and parts of the Montville and Mapleton region.
Local astronomers are currently conducting preliminary accreditation surveys with favourable results.
Australasian Dark Sky Alliance Founder, Dr Ken Wishaw, said the project had been on the table with Council since 2017, and was now well on track with supporting data currently being collated on light pollution and darkness assessment.
“The valley easily meets the requirements for International recognition. We are now collating public outdoor lighting fixtures and assessing which ones are having a negative impact on the valley,” he said.
Dr Wishaw acknowledged that while the proposed reserve area was not the darkest site in Australia, its proximity to such large population would allow it to have a substantial influence on large numbers of people.
“Astro tourism is a very low impact form of environmental tourism and would be of great benefit to the region with minimal impact on our way of life,” he said.
“Declaration of the reserve by Dark Sky International recognises good stewardship of the night environment. It would lock in environmentally sound lighting polices which are good for wildlife, human health and stargazing.”
A Sunshine Coast Council spokesperson said Council was continuing Phase 2 of the Dark Sky Reserve project, which includes a phased community engagement process and consideration of supporting technical documents.
“We continue to collect data on night sky quality in the proposed Dark Sky Reserve area,” the spokesperson said.
“The project team is briefing and engaging with key stakeholders including State Government, Dark Sky International and Energex.”
Formal community consultation is proposed to commence for mid-2024, when community members will be invited to provide their feedback.