One of the most important observatories in the world is Siding Spring Observatory in Coonabarabran, NSW. It is one of the few light observatories in the world that can observe the whole southern-hemisphere sky.
The observatory's work is crucial in understanding the universe and how to protect our planet's fragile environment. For the telescopes at Siding Spring Observatory to work, the night sky must be dark and free from light pollution.
In 2016 the International Dark Sky Association declared the surrounding region of Siding Spring as Australia's first Dark Sky Park.
Dark Sky Planning Guideline
The Department of Planning and Environment worked with the observatory to develop the Dark Sky Planning Guideline (PDF, 5.3 MB). The guideline:
- details planning controls for development surrounding Siding Spring Observatory
- provides advice on how to minimise light pollution in different settings
- details good lighting design principles
The guideline and associated planning controls have been updated following a department review, with expert advice provided by observatory staff.
The department consulted councils, agencies and the community on the changes through the exhibition of an Explanation of Intended Effect from 26 September to 24 October 2022.
The changes ensure the guideline remains fit for purpose and continues to provide best practice guidance on how to minimise light pollution.
Changes to the guideline include:
- more comprehensive guidance on skylights and illuminated signs
- an updated Dark Sky Region map to account for changed council boundaries since the previous guideline was released in 2016
- example conditions of consent for lit development for local councils surrounding the observatory
- improved usability and readability.
Dark Sky planning controls
Changes have also been made to planning controls regarding the dark sky that apply to areas surrounding the Siding Spring Observatory. The controls came into effect when the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) Amendment (Miscellaneous) 2023 and Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Dubbo) Regulation 2023 were notified on 24 February 2023. The changes included:
- removing existing restrictions in the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (Codes SEPP) for certain types of developments on land within 18km of the observatory, provided they do not require any form of lighting
- introducing new development standards regarding outdoor lighting for housing alterations done as complying development in the local government areas of Coonamble, Gilgandra, Warrumbungle Shire and Dubbo Regional
- updating references to Dubbo Regional Council within the Codes SEPP, the State Environmental Planning Policy (Housing) 2021 and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2021 to ensure that development controls relating to the observatory apply to all land regulated by the Dubbo Regional Local Environmental Plan 2022.