Dark Sky Sanctuary
Great Barrier Island (GBI) is an island lying some 100 kilometers (62 miles) northeast of central Auckland in the outer Hauraki Gulf of the North Island of New Zealand. Known as “Aotea” to the indigenous Māori people, it is the sixth-largest island of New Zealand. Initially exploited for its exploited for its mineral wealth and kauri trees, its roughly 1,000 permanent residents now make a living largely from agriculture and tourism. The pace of life on GBI is slow, yet its appeal to an old way of living insulates it from the tumult of the outside world.
With little development pressure and nearly 60% of its territory under the management of the New Zealand Department of Conservation as a nature reserve, GBI has retained essentially all of its natural nighttime darkness. Those conditions are protected by the Island’s separation from the mainland by the Hauraki Gulf and the absence of utility electricity to power outdoor lighting. A typically dark night sky has become part of the cultural values of Islanders, as they gradually become aware of the potential astrotourism value of maintaining the integrity of the Island’s largely pristine nightscapes. Islanders now wish to formalize the kinds of practices they have voluntarily observed for decades, elevating the dark night skies over GBI to a status worthy of formal protection under policies pursued by the governing Auckland Council.