Calls to create a dark sky park in Blue Mountains

Linden Observatory at night: Photo by Peter Nosworth.
Linden Observatory at night: Photo by Peter Nosworth.

Linden is one possible location, Megalong Valley is also being touted. The push is on to create a Dark Sky Park in the Blue Mountains to protect our starry nights.

Last month Blue Mountains Council endorsed the idea with a design now expected early next year.

To achieve Dark Sky Place status, council will need to follow a process to get International Dark Skies Association accreditation.

Marnie Ogg from the Australasian Dark Sky Alliance (an independent non-profit organisation working to reduce light pollution) and one of only five people to have won the International Dark Sky Defender Award, said "certification is is a rigorous process and requires a commitment from all parties".

"Getting the right working group together is key, then, the lighting that is already in place can determine the length of time it takes to put into place." Ms Ogg said.

"Warrumbungles [National Park] took 15 months, Winton [Age of Dinosaurs Sanctuary] two years. Yesterday, a third place was announced: Mid Murray River Dark Sky Reserve, which took over three years".

"We know that light detrimentally effects animals and insects, so creating national parks as not only green belts, but 'black' belts can help alleviate these problems."

Ms Ogg originally suggested the idea for the Mountains park to Ward 2 Cr Romola Hollywood who has been busy promoting the idea.

Dr Ragbir Bhathal, a fellow of London's Royal Astronomical Society, London, as well as a teaching fellow at Western Sydney University and director of Campbelltown Rotary Observatory, is one of many applauding the plan.

Dr Bhathal said most people would not know that the night sky over NSW is listed as a heritage item by the National Trust.

"The trustee of Linden Observatory, Ian Bridges, Mayor Mark Greenhill and Ward 2 Cr Romola Hollywood need to be congratulated to be taking steps to protect our starry nights for future generations," he told the Gazette.

"As early as 1900, Henry Chamberlain Russell, the NSW Government astronomer and director of Sydney Observatory complained to the government of the day to do something about the light pollution in the city of Sydney.

"Today our national symbol, the Southern Cross is slowly disappearing while our Milky Way galaxy has virtually disappeared from the night sky in the city of Sydney. Rather than seeing five stars of the Southern Cross we can see about three faint stars."

Cr Hollywood said she had been overwhelmed by community support for a Dark Sky Place.

"It has generated such interest, the proposal was even covered by Simon Marnie on ABC Radio. Protecting our starry skies is yet another way we can work together to be a sustainable city in a World Heritage area."

A report will come back to council in February "outlining options to protect our night skies and our environment from unnecessary light pollution," she said.

Council will consult with ADSA, traditional owners and environmental and community groups about a possible location. Council will also write to the NSW Environment Minister Matt Keen for his support for the certification process and ask the NSW government to consult with relevant stakeholders.

Ms Ogg said it was "exciting Blue Mountains have jumped on board with this".

"I see it as big a win for conservation as bringing Grand Canyon on board [with dark sky park status] last year. It shows the commitment to preserving an area both day and night."