Earth & Sky and Ngāi Tahu Tourism have revealed concept images for their $10m Astronomy Centre joint venture at Lake Tekapo.
The new lakeside facility will contain a historic telescope, interactive displays, a restaurant and bar and a retail outlet.
Construction of the 1,300 sq m centre, which capitalises on the Mackenzie District’s Dark Sky Reserve status, is scheduled to start this month with completion in early 2019.
A whakawātea or ceremonial blessing was held on the shores of Takapō / Lake Tekapo at the site earlier this month attended by Earth & Sky and Ngāi Tahu Tourism staff, members of the Aoraki International Dark Sky Reserve board and the community.
Ngāi Tahu Tourism chief executive Quinton Hall said the astronomy experience would be immersive, interactive, and educational for visitors.
“We want our visitors to walk away in awe of the universe, enthralled about scientific discoveries and astonished by the seamless connection between science and our local Ngāi Tahu traditions,” said Hall.
“The nature of this facility, with its working telescopes and the exciting scientific research being undertaken by the University of Canterbury and Nagoya University, combined with the depth of Ngāi Tahu star lore traditions means the proposed experience offers a really unique educational opportunity for all visitors.”
Earth & Sky, which was established in 2004 by Graeme Murray and Hide Ozawa and operates tours at nearby Mt John Observatory, said a restored 125-year-old Brashear Telescope would be one of the highlights of the new experience. At 5.4 metres tall, the telescope would need its own observatory dome.
“The dome will clearly identify the building and highlight the importance of dark sky reserve tourism to the town,” said Murray. “It’s a clear visual signal that Takapō is one of the premier locations on the planet to view the night sky.”
The materials and colours used for the centre would be “natural and recessive, so they don’t compete with the surrounding natural environment,” said Ozawa.
“This will be a building of significance. The facility will add to the existing astro-tourism attraction, providing an exciting new day-time astronomy experience.”
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment provided $3m for the centre through the now closed Tourism Growth Partnership with the remaining $7m raised by the joint venture.