Star-gazers win $3.5m TGP funding

Earth & Sky’s observatories at Lake Tekapo. Image: Pxhere

Two star-gazing ventures have attracted a total of $3.5m of government investment in the latest round of funding from the Tourism Growth Partnership (TGP).

Tekapo’s astro-tourism joint venture between Earth & Sky and Ngāi Tahu Tourism has received a $3m allocation from the fund, which will contribute to the development of a new International Astronomy Centre.

The $3m Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) co-investment would cover about a third of the central South Island project’s overall $10m cost.

It will be matched by $7m of industry funding to be raised by the partners.

Announcing the TGP investment at Tourism Industry Aotearoa’s Tourism Summit Aotearoa, Prime Minister John Key said the new Window to the Universe centre will be a great way for visitors to explore dark sky day and night.

He added: “Tekapo is a high growth area. Earth & Sky [Limited Partnership] will be planning suitable worker accommodation and amenities to support the visitor experience.”

Construction of the new 1,300 sq m lakeside facility, which capitalises on the Mackenzie District’s Dark Sky Reserve status, is scheduled to start next year.

The announcement comes just two months after Ngāi Tahu Tourism announced it was entering a 50/50 joint venture with Earth & Sky.

The second venture to win a slice of funding was PurePods, which received $475,000 to expand its portfolio of remote, luxury ‘glass box’ hotel suites.

The Prime Minister said PurePod’s “suite of luxury glass cabins take advantage of NZ’s unique sky and are designed to cater for all seasons”.

The company plans to increase its offer from three to more than 30 “spectacular locations” throughout New Zealand and will match the MBIE investment with industry funding.

Since its launch in 2012 the TGP has awarded $21.2m to 29 tourism ventures and attracted co-funding of $61.5m.

It provides up to $8m in contestable funding each year through co-investment in tourism projects, divided evenly between its Productivity and Innovation Stream and its Regional Stream.

Applications for 2017’s funding round closed in September with the allocation announcement expected early next year.

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