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Oxford Forest Conservation Area Designated International Dark Sky Park

New Zealand has a new International Dark Sky Park! The Oxford Forest Conservation Area was designated by DarkSky International in January. The protected area is 113.5 square kilometres with no lighting or power supply, making it ideal for viewing the stars.

The stars in the Oxford Forest Conservation Area
The best time to see the stars are on cold, clear winter nights when you can see Matariki (pictured in the Oxford Forest Conservation Area) or the galactic core of the Milky Way.

More than 20 public and private organisations collaborated to ensure there was a robust light management and policy framework in place to protect the night sky and reduce light pollution for future generations. There is now a project in place to reduce light pollution from the nearby township of Oxford with the aim of extending the protected dark sky area to include the township and a large part of the Ward’s subdivision.

Lake Tekapo and the Church of the Good Shepherd at night
Lake Tekapo is part of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, the largest of the protected dark sky areas in New Zealand. Image credit: Fraser Gunn.

The Oxford Forest Conservation Area encompasses remnants of Beech and Podocarp forests that once covered the inland Canterbury Region. By day, the forest is perfect for walking, mountain biking, and swimming at Ryde Falls. By night, it is ideal for viewing the stars. Learn more about the conservation area here:

With the designation of the Oxford Forest Conservation Area, New Zealand now has six protected dark sky areas, covering over 10,000 square kilometres.

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