River Murray International Dark Sky Reserve receives accreditation as one of the best places in the world to see the stars

ACCREDITED: Chris Tugwell, Debbie Alexander, Julie Bates, Martin Lewicki, David Bennett and Paul Haese at the Big Bend Lookout, which is part of the Reserve. Photo: Dani Brown.
ACCREDITED: Chris Tugwell, Debbie Alexander, Julie Bates, Martin Lewicki, David Bennett and Paul Haese at the Big Bend Lookout, which is part of the Reserve. Photo: Dani Brown.

A portion of the Mid Murray district has been recognised as one of the darkest places in the world, after being officially declared an International Dark Sky Reserve.

The 3200-square kilometre patch now known as the River Murray International Dark Sky Reserve is one of the best places on the planet to see the night sky.

The reserve's 'core site' is in the Swan Reach Conservation Park, but includes the towns of Swan Reach, Cambrai, Nildottie, Bowhill, Palmer, Tungkillo, Sedan, Blanchetown, Black Hill and Walker Flat, along with the Big Bend and Ngaut Ngaut Conservation Park.

The accreditation given by the International Dark-Sky Association is the only one of its kind in Australia and is among only 15 reserves in the world.

It is given out once the area's darkness has been measured on a scale of 0 to 22. Recent measurements from the reserve sat between 21.97 and 21.99.

Mid Murray Landcare Group and Mid Murray Council have worked together to push for the accreditation for the last two-and-a-half years, after Landcare member Chris Tugwell thought of the idea three-and-a-half years ago.

It gives protection to the reserve from urban light pollution, partially due to shielding from the nearby Mount Lofty Ranges and also thanks to local government policies implemented to minimise artificial light across the district in the future.

Mr Tugwell, who said he was "just a land owner interested in stars", said it was a relief his and the committee's hard work had paid off.

"Dark places are really important, we need to protect them. They're important for native animals, especially nocturnal animals," he said.

"I'm really proud of what we've done. It's a great thrill."

Mid Murray Council tourism manager Debbie Alexander said the accreditation would allow for "endless" tourism and education opportunities, especially as the reserve was free to access.

"We will see an international influx, not just of people interested in astronomy, but families who have it on their bucket lists," she said.

"It's an education opportunity, to show the importance of the stars not just from a a beauty point of view, but environmental, too."

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