Pristine dark night sky will dove tail perfectly with NZ's 100 percent pure image
A world night sky reserve in the skies above Tekapo – Aoraki/Mt Cook will be fostered in the spirit of the 100 percent Pure New Zealand image, a driving force behind the night sky park said today.
Tekapo leader Graeme Murray, one of the first people to push for a world heritage site recognition in the Mackenzie, said a starlight reserve would boost the new phenomena of astro-tourism, increase scientific research and help with educational opportunities.
``We expect phenomenal national and International interest in preserving a pristine dark sky in this area. Nearly half the population of the world can no longer see the stars because of urban night-pollution,’’ he said.
``If Lake Tekapo Aoraki /Mt Cook is one of the first world heritage parks in the sky this will have enormous implications for country as vast numbers in the world find it increasingly difficult to see a starry night sky. A recent international airline survey carried out in Japan said over 70 percent of their premium market would come to New Zealand just to see the stars.
``To stand in awe under a pristine and unpolluted dark sky and connect with the majesty and mystery of the stars is the dream of many people on an over-lit and rather cluttered planet,’’ Murray said.
A UNESCO world heritage committee meeting in Brasilia in June will decide if night sky reserves can be included among the world heritage appointment guidelines.
Murray said mixing tourism with science and education is a new buzz phrase around the Beehive this year.
``For us in Tekapo, lighting ordinances are already firmly in place and these have already turned the eyes of the world on to this region. This has already established us as world leaders in this regard, embracing the responsible use of energy.’’
Already a healthy flow of International visitors are including New Zealand and in particular the Tekapo - Aoraki / Mt Cook in their Itineraries to experience an unpolluted dark sky - to see the stars. International film crews and documentary teams are visiting the region, sometimes at a rate of one a week.
A CBN tv documentary on Mt John above Tekapo was last year beamed to 200 countries with an estimated audience of 20 million people.
Greatly increased numbers of visitors are staying at Lake Tekapo for days rather than just hours. The location is fast changing from being just a transit town on the blue ribbon tourist network to something very special.
``Already the Mackenzie has one of the fastest rates of tourism growth in New Zealand and a world heritage starlight reserve will be the major sustainable cornerstone of the region’s attraction.
Former Cabinet minister Margaret Austin who is leading the New Zealand bid to have starlight reserves recognised world-wide, said the Mackenzie would be placed on the domestic and international stage, with increased economic activity as a result of substantial interest in a future star gazing reserve.
``In our favour in New Zealand , we have ease of accessibility, lighting ordinances already in place and we now have support from Prime Minister John Key in the run up to the Brasilia meeting in June.’’
Recognition by the World Heritage Committee for starlight reserves will put the Tekapo Aoraki/Mt Cook on the international radar resulting in greater tourist numbers to NZ and to the region to see the stars in a dark sky.
Mt John above the Tekapo township is considered one of the most accessible observatories in the world. The observatory is home to six telescopes including the country's biggest telescope which measures 1.8m across and can observe 50 million stars each clear night.