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Public feedback sought on proposal to establish dark sky reserve

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Public feedback is being sought on a proposal to declare 38 per cent of the Sunshine Coast Council’s geographic area a dark sky reserve.

The proposed dark sky reserve would encompass 873sq km of the Mary River catchment and adjoining state-protected areas within the council boundaries.

About 15,000 people live in the proposed reserve area, which would include Maleny, Mapleton, Montville, Witta, Flaxton and Conondale.

If the proposal for the reserve is successful, the hinterland would join a select group of dark sky reserve locations around the world including the Murray River; central Idaho, United States; Mercantour, France; Aoraki Mackenzie, New Zealand; the Brecon Beacons, Wales; and the Rhon Mountains, Germany.

A council statement said the establishment of a dark sky reserve would involve improving street lighting, progressing dark sky-friendly lighting standards and showing a community commitment to dark skies.

It said dark skies with plenty of visible stars were important for retaining character of hinterland areas, for community wellbeing, for promoting astro-tourism that supported hinterland businesses, and for native wildlife that needed to move and feed safely at night.

The night sky above Kirbys Road Environmental Reserve, Obi Obi. Photo: Dr Ken Wishaw and Dr Geoff Simon

Division 5 councillor Winston Johnston said community involvement was a key element of the proposed reserve.

“In the hinterland, stars in the sky are etched into our identity,” he said.

“We’re seeking to understand what our dark skies mean for all our residents, groups and businesses, and we need to know if our community supports a dark sky reserve.”

Division 10 councillor David Law said people could make small changes to enhance night skies.

“There will be no mandate for residents and businesses to change their lights or to switch off lights,” he said.

“We all still need lighting, but we can do it smarter.

“There is a monumental difference a well-designed, fit-for-purpose light can make, whether it’s a public streetlight or a lamp for your garden path.

“We’re encouraging our community to get involved and consider the small changes that are in your power: making sure your outdoor lighting is useful, targeted, low-level, controlled and warm-coloured wherever possible.”

The hinterland skies are already a favourite for stargazers who have three observatories to choose from to study the skies.

Community feedback on the proposal will inform council decisions on making an application to the International Dark Sky Association to establish the reserve.

The proposal is now open for feedback online.

Do you have an opinion to share? Submit a Letter to the Editor at Sunshine Coast News via news@sunshinecoastnews.com.au. You must include your name and suburb.

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