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Statutory trust company Perpetual Guardian has thrown its financial weight behind Otago Museum's new $1 million planetarium, gaining naming rights and sponsoring an innovative ''Reach for the Stars'' programme.
The blue chip company has provided a ''significant'' but undisclosed sponsorship amount for the Perpetual Guardian Planetarium and the programme which will help bring up to 3600 youngsters from rural or low-decile schools to the planetarium each year for five years.
The planetarium, now under construction at the museum, will open to the public on December 5.
The planetarium makes use of a 900kg aluminium dome suspended in a light and soundproofed space at a 12deg angle to enable a 360-degree viewing experience from tilted seats.
It will use a state-of-the-art Sony projection system.
At a briefing yesterday, museum director Ian Griffin and Perpetual Guardian founder Andrew Barnes described a vision through which young people inspired by science at the museum, including the planetarium, would strengthen Dunedin's future, by ultimately increasing the number of science and technology jobs.
Perpetual Guardian's financial backing followed a visit to the museum in June by Mr Barnes, of Auckland, and a Dunedin client manager, Kevin O'Sullivan.
Mr Barnes said when he learned about the museum's plans to install an immersive theatre, he realised those goals ''aligned perfectly'' with the company's vision to ''support and encourage learning and education in Otago''.
The planetarium would be a place ''where knowledge is shared and curiosity sparked''.
It would contribute to New Zealand's future by leading to ''new ideas and enterprises'', he said.
Dr Griffin said Perpetual Guardian had provided an ''unprecedented and transformational sponsorship and philanthropic package'' for the museum through a 10-year strategic investment in the museum's science engagement programme.
This would ''inspire the next generation of young New Zealanders to take an interest in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics''.
The planetarium would seat 50 people and offered ''the only 3-D planetarium experience in the southern hemisphere'', he said.
Under the ''Reach for the Stars'' programme, the sponsorship will cover the cost of entry to the planetarium and offer to subsidise the cost of travel for schools outside Dunedin to come to the museum.
There they will take part in educational programmes developed to support the show.
The planetarium is the $1 million first stage of a three-stage $3.5 million redevelopment of the museum's science engagement facilities.