North Hokianga could join a select group of places around the world with official dark sky status if a proposal wins local backing.
Only 13 dark sky reserves — areas with outstanding night skies and protection from future sources of light pollution — have been recognised around the world by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).
The only one in New Zealand so far is Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, which comprises Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park and the Mackenzie Basin.
Far North District Council community development advisor Ken Ross said dark sky status could boost boutique tourism in North Hokianga, especially home stays and marae-based activities.
Unlike Cape Reinga, which many tourists visited as a day trip from the Bay of Islands, anyone who wanted to see the stars had to stay overnight.
Dark sky status could, however, also mean restrictions on some types of future development through changes in the District Plan limiting light pollution.
Ross said he was trying to get a working group together to pursue the idea.
Broadwood and Kohukohu residents were keen but the group needed broad representation of North Hokianga people if it was to gain trust and credibility.
He had completed a mapping exercise identifying all sources of light pollution such as at road intersections and security lights on large buildings.
A member of the US-based IDA was ''very excited'' by the idea during a recent visit to New Zealand, Ross said.
''Just looking at the maps he could see North Hokianga was a sitter for it.''
The next steps included taking a series of measurements around North Hokianga to make sure the night sky met IDA criteria.
Ross was also seeking funding for the project although an initial bid to secure a Lotteries grant had been unsuccessful.
There were also environmental benefits to preserving night skies because many plants and animals determined the time of year from the length of the night.
When nights were no longer dark due to man-made light, plants flowered and animals produced hormones at the wrong time of year. That was thought to be just one of the factors in the current global wave of extinctions, he said.
While Aoraki Mackenzie is currently the only dark sky reserve in New Zealand, Great Barrier Island and Stewart Island are official dark sky sanctuaries.
Dark sky sanctuaries are more remote than dark sky reserves with few, if any, threats to the night sky. Only six dark sky sanctuaries have been recognised worldwide.