Feature on Tekapo - Starlight Reserve 2009
Seven years ago the Mackenzie District Council initiated an extensive series of Public
The results of the public meetings and debate was a major policy document called the ‘Tekapo Vision’. One of the very important cornerstones of this document was the statement – “That we protect the dark sky”.
It was shortly after the release of the Tekapo Vision that the first thoughts arose locally about the concept for a type of “Park in the Sky”. To help ensure Tekapo’s precious asset was not lost through light pollution, not only for the sake of Mt John but for future generations. It was a simple concept but one that quickly caught on, particularly Internationally where a good many parts of the World have already lost their Starry night Sky.
Out of this idea a remarkable journey began which took Mt John Observatory and Lake Tekapo to the far corners of the World, and not least of all through the corridors of power of UNESCO itself. It helped convince UNESCO to look upwards as well as around them. The Mackenzie District Council meanwhile had in place the required ordinances to control light pollution and to help better promote the reasonable use of electricity and as a result are regarded both nationally and internationally as leaders in this regard.
The location being advocated for the World’s first Starlight Reserve is envisaged to encompass Lake Tekapo and include its strategic Mount John Observatory, the Lake and it’s tributary – the Godley Valley and the Mt Cook National Park plus nestled alongside the existing South Westland World Heritage Park. This whole concept was initiated by the Mount Cook Mackenzie Tourism and Development Board and is now in the hands of the Council’s Tourism and Development Trust which is initiating a public consultation process as the UNESCO plans and ideas gradually come to fruition.
2009 is the International Year of Astronomy and it is UNESCO World Heritage’s desire that Mt John and the Tekapo/Mt Cook area might become the first Starlight Reserve in the World if all parties can work towards an acceptable formula. This would bring incredible International recognition and accolades not only to the Mackenzie Country but to New Zealand as a whole and the “Pure NZ” image that it projects overseas.
Graeme Murray - Earth and Sky
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