Our Project

Our project is part of the process to establish a Dark Sky Community, initially in the area of the Kūaotunu Peninsula shown opposite.

Light pollution is the biggest hurdle to gaining International Dark Sky Community certification, as it impacts the brightness and clarity of the night sky.  To qualify as a Dark Sky Community there must be effective measures in place to ensure light pollution is managed, particularly in relation to outdoor lighting of all forms – domestic, public, streetlights and  industrial.

The Thames Coromandel District Plan manages activities and environmental impacts (including outdoor lighting) in our district, through objectives, policies and rules (collectively called ‘provisions’) set out in the plan.  The current provisions do not sufficiently limit light pollution, nor do they meet the IDA requirements for dark sky community certification.

The core focus of our project is working with consultants to develop suitable new provisions, and prepare a proposed change to the District Plan to incorporate these new provisions. We will reach out to key stakeholders early in this process, so that we can consider and incorporate feedback.

The changes required to establish appropriate limits and meet the IDA requirements are likely to include controls on:

    • Shielding and tilting of lighting
    • Colour temperature of lighting
    • Sports lighting at recreational facilities, and
    • Illuminated Signs

A private plan change to establish the new provisions will be submitted to Thames Coromandel District Council. This will be publicly notified, allowing anyone to make a submission on it. The submissions will be considered at a hearing by a Council appointed panel, who will issue a decision on the plan change.

If / when the plan change is approved, the new provisions will not apply to existing lighting, although we will encourage people to make the minor changes needed to meet new standards and reduce light pollution in the districts.  However, when you replace light fixtures, the new provisions will apply.

Key Outcomes

The Project has three key outcomes to deliver

Click the highlighted text for more information on each outcome.

Project Stages

The project is being undertaken in two stages, as described below.

Stage 1

The first stage of the project was completed in October 2022, and involved:

  • meeting with Thames-Coromandel District Council (TCDC) planning staff to ascertain in principle support for the requisite plan change and a preferred approach
  • understanding the specific lighting requirements necessary and options for achieving the light emission outcomes
  • initial review of the TCDC District Plan to ascertain the required scale of change to the plan provisions
  • initial discussions with a lighting expert
  • preparation of a high level plan for the next stage of the project.

Stage 2

The second stage of the project started in December and will define the policies and standards needed, and the corresponding change needed to the District Plan.  There will be extensive consultation with key stakeholders, and engagement with the community to build support and awareness.

Once the draft plan change is complete, there will be public consultation and resolution of any issues identified, followed by council hearings and a final decision.

We need broad support from community organisations such as chambers of commerce, local electrical utilities, IDA chapters, lighting retailers, and homeowners’ associations, and TCDC must commit that council owned lighting in the area under consideration does or will conform with the lighting policy.

Finally, the project team will be working with the IDA to show that requirements for a Dark Sky Community will be met, and to pursue the formal accreditation.

Lighting Guidelines

For almost every homeowner in the proposed Dark Sky Community area there will be literally NO IMPACT from the new guidelines.  Almost all the lighting in the area already meets the standards which will be required, and the standards themselves are largely common sense and good practice.

If minor changes are needed (such as shielding external lighting), there is a 10 year timeframe for completion.

Of course when the guidelines are translated into formal policies and standards for inclusion in the District Plan, things sound a lot more complicated, so we have prepared a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to try and anticipate and resolve any concerns.  Click here to take a look at them.

The basic summary is exterior lights must not be too bright, not be too blue and should point downwards.  It’s that simple!

If you do have any concerns, head to the Contact section of the site, where you can submit questions online or contact project team members directly.

Some of you will need more detail on the proposals – developers, builders, operators of sports and community facilities for instance – in which case you should head over to the Lighting Regulations page.

District Plan Change

We need TCDC to adopt a change to the District Plan to establish new policies and standards for lighting in the Dark Sky Community area – simple right?  Unfortunately not.  There is a formal process to go through to get any change to the District Plan, and the proposal to Council must follow this process, be robust and comprehensive and provide all the information needed to make a decision.  It will also have to stand up to public scrutiny and  consultation.

Click on each of the rows below if you would like to see more detail on preparing the District Plan change.

Dummy Invisible Row

Consult with key stakeholders (initial list here)


    International Dark Sky Association requirements for a Dark Sky Community

    Rrelevant legislation and policy direction (including Treaty of Waitangi settlements)

    Identifying the social, environmental, economic, and cultural costs and benefits of the proposed control of lighting emissions.

    Draft Plan Change Application

    Including associated draft amended plan provisions

    Information Report

    Assist TCDC in the preparation of an information report to elected Councillors

    Public Consultation

    Preparation for public consultation, including attendance at pre-hearing meetings and/or expert witness conferencing


    Review of Councils s42A report and response to submissions


    Preparation of planning evidence to support the hearing of the private plan change and attendance at hearing(s).

    District Plan Structure

    The District Plan has a Complicated Structure, made up of a number of different elements.

    Click on each of the rows below to find out more about the elements that make up the plan, and how they may be used in the proposed plan change.

    Invisible dummy row

    The objectives of the District Plan set out the resource management outcomes that the Council is seeking to achieve in the district

    To meet the requirements for IDA acceditation, changes are required to provide a high-level direction that recognises the importance of the night sky in the Kuaotunu Peninsula and its protection from light pollution,


    Policies outline the action required to achieve the objectives


    Rules manage activities to achieve the objectives and policies of the District Plan.

    New rules will be needed to limit light pollution from activities in the appropaita zones.

    Rules are contained within four distinct parts of the District Plan:

    • Part V – Special Purpose Provisions
    • Part VI – Overlay Rules
      • Overlays sit above district-wide and zone objectives, policies and rules and are used to identify the special values of the district, and matters of national importance in the RMA.
    • Part VII – District-Wide Rules
    • Part VIII – Zone

    Rules related to lighting are currently managed on a zone-by-zone basis. Under each zone in Part VIII is a sub-section called Assessment Standards, Matters and Criteria. Rules for lighting are contained in tables under this sub-section.

    The District Plan contains 15 zones. The Kuaotunu Dark Sky Plan Change area contains 6 zones:

    • Rural
    • Conservation
    • Recreation Passive
    • Coastal Living
    • Open Space
    • Hydro

    It may be more appropriate to manage lighting through overlay rules, instead of the zone rules.


    The District Plan contains 15 zones. The Kuaotunu Dark Sky Plan Change area contains 6 zones:

    • Rural
    • Conservation
    • Recreation Passive
    • Coastal Living
    • Open Space
    • Hydro



    It may be more appropriate to manage lighting through overlay rules, instead of the zone rules.

    Community Support

    A key requirement for official recognition by IDA is demonstrated support from the communities in the area (Kūaotunu, Ōpito and Matapaua Bays, Ōtama and Ring’s Bech) for the Dark Sky accreditation, and a continuing programme of community involvement and education.

    We have a comprehensive communication strategy now being rolled out, which will ensure that everyone in the affected communities:

    • is aware of the intiative
    • understands the implications, both in general terms and the impact for them individually
    • has the opportunity to question and challenge all aspects of the initiative, particularly proposed lighting regulations
    • has information available about the economic, health and environmental benefits of Dark Skies
    • is encouraged to participate in commmunity stargazing and associated activities.

    The social media component of this strategy is currently based on:

    • a Facebook Group set up to share information with and hear from interested parties.  This group has already recorded over 100 registrations from word of mouth referrals 
    • this website, which will continue to be developed as a repository of news, information, project reports and educational resources.

      More Information

      For more information about our plans, head over to the Community Engagement Page.

      You can also click the button below to view the flyer that was produced and widely distributed last year, introducing the Dark Sky Project to the community.