Calls to create a dark sky park in Blue Mountains

Cr Romola Hollywood wants to protect our starry, starry nights.

She was recently approached by the Australasian Dark Sky Alliance about creating a dark sky park in the Mountains.

Starry starry night sought: Ian Bridges, trustee of the Linden Observatory, Mayor Mark Greenhill and Ward 2 Cr Romola Hollywood.

Starry starry night sought: Ian Bridges, trustee of the Linden Observatory, Mayor Mark Greenhill and Ward 2 Cr Romola Hollywood.

The group says light pollution is the fastest growing pollutant around the globe, with scientific research showing an average increase year-on-year of more than two per cent.

Dark sky parks offer exceptional starry nights and a nocturnal environment. Creating a dark sky place involves a certification process through the International Dark Skies Association. It means finding a suitable location, community consultation, as well as education on better lighting design that minimises light pollution.

"Research shows the impact of night-time light pollution on flora and fauna is yet another aspect of human activity that we need to address to protect our environment and design our cities in more environmentally sustainable ways," Cr Hollywood said.

"Protecting our night skies from light pollution is an important action. We love our starry nights here in the Mountains. It is yet another feature that sets us apart from the city. It's one of the reasons people live here and reducing light pollution can provide energy saving benefits as well."

The Dark Sky movement is relatively new to Australia, but is gradually gaining recognition. Australia has two Dark Sky Parks (Warrumbungles National Park, and Winton Age of Dinosaurs Sanctuary). New Zealand has three Dark Sky Places and is bidding to be the first Dark Sky Country.

Cr Hollywood has the support of Ian Bridges, trustee of the Linden Observatory. When astronomer and telescope-maker Ken Beames established the observatory in 1948, he came to Linden in search of a dark sky site for his telescopes. Ian Bridges said today Linden is affected by quite a bit of light pollution from the glow of the lights in the Mountains and from Sydney.

"Once everyone had dark skies and could look at the stars with wonder. It's only in modern times that we lit the sky and obscured the stars with wasted artificial light," Mr Bridges of Hazelbrook said.

"The Dark Sky Park plan is a great initiative to preserve dark sky places and reduce wastefully lighting the sky.

"It saves energy and saves the skies for all of us. Everyone should be able to enjoy the wonder of a dark star lit sky. Lighting what we need on the ground instead of the sky and protecting places unaffected by artificial light will help us to experience that wonder."

At the next council meeting on October 29, Cr Hollywood will bring a notice of motion for council to consider creating a Dark Sky Park within the local government area.

Mayor Mark Greenhill said: "As we move to becoming carbon neutral by 2025, it makes sense for us to consider how we can prevent light pollution and keep our skies as dark as possible. As a city in a world heritage area we should be thinking about how we protect our night-time skies."