An exciting new project worth several million dollars has been announced by astro-tourism operator, Earth & Sky to capitalise on the growing desire, and willingness to travel, for dark skies. Lake Tekapo is a small community located on the South Island of New Zealand and is part of an area designated an International Dark Sky Reserve in 2012 by the International Dark Sky Association. The reserve consists of the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park and the Mackenzie Basin and was awarded the highest Gold Status.
The company’s founder, Graeme Murray wants to build a $5mn “window to the universe” which will include a large telescope donated by Pennsylvania University which was built in 1890 and weighs some 18 tonnes. Murray has been negotiating with the local council and investors for several years to get the project off the ground and hopes construction will begin within 12 months.
Tourism New Zealand has begun to create specific advertising with a focus on astronomy and it is no wonder with international guest nights growth of 35% over the last 12 months to August 2013 in the McKensie region, with a total of 305,400.
I for one am very excited by the announced plans having only recently returned from the only other Gold rated Dark Sky Reserve in Namibia which can you read about here.
More details about Earth & Sky can be found at http://earthandskynz.com/earthandsky/index.html