Sydney set to be home to Australia’s first urban night sky park. But locals aren’t all pleased

The council will also work with local businesses Palm Beach Golf Club and The Boathouse to implement lighting changes on their premises, which fall within the park’s scope. It will then make a formal application.

To become an accredited night sky park with the International Dark Sky Association, the council needs to pay a fee and hold four educational events at the park each year. Those events could include telescope stargazing nights for up to 50 people, or awareness activities such as astronomer talk picnics.

“The businesses on site could continue to operate as normal under their lease/s and could opt to undertake night sky activities in addition to the abovementioned four events per year at their discretion,” the motion says.

Former manager of Sydney Observatory Marnie Ogg lives in the area and has been promoting the concept since 2019.

“[The park] doesn’t have any light pollution at all, which is amazing. That’s partly because you’ve got water on three sides, you have no high density living, and no street lighting, which is one of the biggest sources of artificial lights at night,” she said.

“There’s the national park to the west, Hawkesbury running through the middle, and Pacific Ocean to your right. It’s always going to be more dark than almost anywhere else,” she said.

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Keeping artificial light to a minimum would also benefit local fauna, like the area’s microbats whose food sources, small insects, are attracted to street lights and housing. It means the microbats often change course and end up stuck in urban areas.

Baby turtles rely on the moonlight’s reflection to find their way back to water when they hatch; streetlights pose a distraction that can see them become prey to birds waiting for a feast. Pittwater is also home to fairy penguins and shore birds, that learn to fly in the area.

“All are animals impacted by artificial light at night,” Ms Ogg said. “We’re lucky at the moment, there’s not terribly a lot of artificial light up there, but my goal is to see that’s kept that way.”

Avalon resident and local Greens candidate Miranda Korzy said community concerns needed to be taken seriously. “We must ensure that the council does not allow mass gatherings of hundreds of people at night that disturb residents,” she said.

“However, there is no need for this to be a commercial operation and the council, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, or some other non-profit body could run the four educational events.”

She said she thought the park was ultimately “a wonderful idea”. “Not only will it be a great environmental benefit and educational value, but it will just be fun. It’s the sort of thing families could take their kids up to see the sky and sit on the grass or sand dunes and look up,” she said.

The International Dark Sky Association defines urban night sky places as open spaces adjacent to large urban areas where planning and design “actively promote an authentic night-time experience in the midst of significant artificial light”. Australia’s first official dark sky park was Warrumbungle in western NSW.


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