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What we do International Dark Sky Places

Wairarapa Dark Sky Reserve

The South and East facing Wairarapa Coast is a perfect place to watch the Aurora Australis. In this image the aurora dominates both the sky and the still waters of Lake Wairarapa, with the Cape Palliser Lighthouse visible in the distance underneath the auroral curtain. Photo credit, Glen Butler.


The Wairarapa Dark Sky Reserve is situated in the Wairarapa Valley of the North Island of New Zealand. The Reserve encompasses 3,665 square kilometers and is home to 21,000 residents. The Wairarapa Dark Sky Association (WDSA) developed the application with enthusiastic support from the Wairarapa, Carterton, Masterson, and the Greater Wellington Regional Councils and the Māori Standing Committee, district residents, and businesses.

The core of the Reserve consists entirely of the Aorangi Forest Park public lands, administered by the Department of Conservation. The periphery encompasses the South Wairarapa and Carterton Districts. The collective Reserve’s commitment to night sky conservation is evident through implementing a District Plan that regulates outdoor lighting across the three districts in Wairarapa Valley. Additionally, 100 percent of the lighting in the core is compliant with the Reserve Lighting Management Plan. Changes to public lighting within the periphery are underway, with over 50 percent of all street lighting already in compliance.

Collaboration between the WDSA and a diversity of partners, such as the National Wildlife Sanctuary Pūkaha, Aratoi Museum, local Māori leaders, astrophotographers, astronomers, universities, and others have culminated in an array of outreach and cultural events to raise awareness about night sky conservation. Educational materials have also been developed for local schools and distributed to inform district residents about dark-sky friendly lighting. Ongoing public engagement includes promoting astro-tourism, heritage astronomy, and advocacy to inspire legislative action to consider light pollution in the environmental planning process.

Most of the Reserve is easily accessible to the public by foot, bike, or motor vehicle for night sky viewing every night. The adventurous may access the more remote areas of the Aorangi Forest Park by foot or mountain bike via the popular Aorangi Crossing, a 2-3 night trek from the Pinnacles to the Cape Palliser/Kawakawa.




International Dark Sky Reserve


Wairarapa Region
New Zealand
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Charlotte Harding

Land Area

3,665 km2

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Click here to find ideal environmental conditions for viewing the night sky at Wairarapa Dark Sky Reserve, (-41.4562, 175.3239). Don’t forget to plan your trip during the new moon and astronomical twilight to enhance the viewing experience!