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What we do International Dark Sky Places

Oxford Forest Conservation Area, New Zealand

Matarkiki rising over the Oxford Foothills
Matarkiki rising over the Oxford Foothills


The Oxford Forest Conservation Area is located in Oxford, North Canterbury, in the South Island of New Zealand. Its area spans 113.5 square kilometers of publicly owned land under the Department of Conservation’s jurisdiction. The park has no lighting or power supply within its confines. The site lies at an altitude of 234 meters above sea level in the Oxford Foothills.

The Oxford Forest Conservation Area is the remnant of the great Beech and Podocarp forests that once covered the inland Canterbury region. It contains walking and mountain biking tracks, steep inclines, and several waterways. A popular summer attraction, Ryde Falls, offers rock swimming pools at the base of each of its five tiers. The natural landscape is rolling and mountainous, dominated by evergreen, with alpine tussocks and herbs in the high altitudes.

Passionate collaboration between more than 20 public and private organizations has led to a robust light management and policy framework to ensure that we protect the night sky and reduce light pollution for future generations. A variety of outreach and education projects planned on-site include Matariki New Year festivities, astronomy star parties, toi and art exhibitions, nocturnal eco-walks, and school research trips supported by toi o Waimakariri Art Gallery, the Oxford Observatory, the local schools, and others. 

Projects to reduce light pollution from the nearby township of Oxford will begin in 2024 and aim to extend the dark sky region and include the township and a vast swath of the Ward’s subdivision: this would increase the area of the dark site by more than ten-fold. Backing from the Department of Conservation, as well as from the community and district governmental authorities, has been unequivocal.

The Oxford Forest Conservation Area is accessible 365 days/year, 24 hours/day. The best skies are those of a cold, clear winter night when you can enjoy Matariki rising or peer straight into the Galactic Core.


113.5 km2 Sq. Km




International Dark Sky Park


Oxford Forest Conservation Area
Mountain Road
Coopers Creek-Oxford, New Zealand 7495
Google Maps


Raul Elias-Drago


Annual Reports


Click here to find ideal environmental conditions for enjoying dark skies near Oxford, New Zealand (-43.29, 172.20).