New Takapō attraction Dark Sky Project combines Māori astronomy and science

A big building with a domed top, among south island brush.
The main building. Photo credit: Supplied/Campbell Squared

A new project in Takapō (Tekapo) combines Māori astronomy and science to give visitors an unforgettable experience.

The Dark Sky Project was opened on Tuesday by governor-general Dame Patsy Reddy and the main building, named Rehua, was blessed by mana whenua from Arowhenua, Waihao and Moeraki rūnanga.

Visitors to the Takapō lakefront site will be able to eat at the Dark Sky Diner and enjoy outdoor evening stargazing experiences.  

The project was a joint ventrue between Ngāi Tahu Tourism and co-founders Graeme Murray and Hide Ozawa.

Murray said it was great to see the building take shape and the highlight for him was the large observatory dome being installed in April.

"It has been our dream to develop a home for astronomy in the heart of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, so that we could inspire a lifelong understanding and passion for our night skies."

The observatory houses a 125-year-old Brashear Telescope, which was in storage for five decades before being restored in Fairlie over the last two years.

Ngāi Tahu Tourism CEO Quinton Hall said the facility will ensure thousands of tourists n the area will enjoy the astronomy experience from the Dark Sky Reserve in any conditions.

"Dark Sky Project will add significant value to the region as more places around the world lose sight of their stars and visitors seek out places like Takapō where they can look up at the clearest, darkest skies."

A 4300 square kilometre area of the Mackenzie Region was declared the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve in 2012.