Glow in night sky raises Zealandia concerns
July 1, 2019
The issue of light pollution in the night sky was raised when a few Zealandia night guides and staff went on a walk to see it for themselves.
Guardian Julia Bracegirdle has volunteered for 22 years not only as a night guide but she also used to help count kiwi in the sanctuary.
“What I noticed the most was when we went up to the tower,” she said. “That’s where I used to do kiwi call counting and you sat there for an hour in the dark. I was surprised at just the glow all around. That’s where I really noticed that it was quite different.”
She said there would always be an orange sunset glow. The sanctuary was never completely dark being in the city but she could always see the night sky.
It was not something she thought visitors would notice if they just came to Zealandia for the first time. “With people coming in and out, they won’t have the experience of what it was like before and they may just expect it to be like that. Zealandia was a place where, even though it was in the city, you still saw a very good night sky.”
Bracegirdle hoped the Wellington City Council could find a way to help both Zealandia and Wellington residents. It could turn some of the lights down and reconsider the lights in the streets around the sanctuary.
Conservation manager at Zealandia Danielle Shanahan said because the sanctuary was right in a valley, not much direct light could get in. “The design of the valley took into account light pollution.” She wasn’t too concerned about the impact on Zealandia but said the issue would be considered.
There hadn’t been a lot of research about the impact LED lights had on the wildlife. However, she said it was likely to have an effect they didn’t know about. “It would be naïve to say there’s no effect on New Zealand’s wildlife.”
City Councillor and Guardian at Zealandia Peter Gilberd said the LED lights were implemented because they were more efficient. He said more recently people had been noticing a “light scatter” in the sky.
He said it would always be difficult to find the balance between having enough light and not too much. The guardians at Zealandia had been discussing how to find that balance. “We weren’t altogether sure how significant the issue was. In a modified environment, we do affect nature and we are always trying to minimise the effect.”