11 Jun 2012

Mackenzie Basin designated as dark sky reserve

8:44 am on 11 June 2012

Thousands of square kilometres of South Island landscape have been declared a Dark Sky Reserve because of its clear night skies.

The newly-designated Aoraki-Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve is only the fourth such reserve in the world, joining others in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Namibia.

More than 4300 square kilometres of Aoraki-Mount Cook National Park and the Mackenzie Basin are covered by the new title - making it the largest reserve of them all.

The Tekapo-based Starlight Working Party has been working since 2006 to get the Mackenzie Basin internationally recognised as a reserve.

Chair Margaret Austin says the night sky in the Mackenzie Basin is particularly fascinating for overseas visitors who come from areas where light pollution masks the view of stars.

Ms Austin says the working group is now focussed on achieving world heritage status for the site.

Mount John Observatory manager Alan Gilmore says the reserve status gives international recognition of the quality of the sky there.

"This provides international recognition of the quality of our sky and shows that we have a sky that is really worth protecting so that it means that the sky will be protected for generations to come".

Mr Gilmore says lighting ordinances from the Mackenzie District Council ensure light pollution will never occur in the area.

Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter says it puts the Mackenzie Basin on the map as a destination of international significance.