The night sky over the Mackenzie Country. Photo by Fraser
New Zealand has taken the first step in getting the
Tekapo/Aoraki-Mt Cook night sky declared a World Heritage site.
It has been accepted as one of five world heritage night sky
reserve sites to be considered for approval at the Unesco
world heritage meeting in Rio de Janeiro next year.
The Tekapo/Aoraki-Mt Cook bid, presented by former Cabinet
minister Margaret Austin, was unanimously supported at this
week's Unesco meeting in Santa Cruz.
"We have got over the first hurdle and will be ready to push
our case further to the World Heritage Committee. If we get
through that . . . we will then need government commitment to
proceed to the final stage."
There were "massive" global benefits of being recognised as a
world night sky heritage park and Ms Austin intended briefing
Prime Minister John Key on her return.
The other sites seeking world heritage approval are from
Austria, La Palma - Spain, Chile and Hawaii.
Ms Austin told the meeting Tekapo/Aoraki-Mt Cook had
"exceptional" unpolluted skies with very low light pollution
because of the lighting ordinances, which had been in place
nearly 30 years.
Mt John, above Tekapo township, was considered one of the
most accessible observatories in the world.
One of its six telescopes is the country's largest, measuring
1.8m across, and on a clear night can observe 50 million