US scholar claims Southern Cross

While we've all been busy moaning about the Australians pinching pavlova, Phar Lap and Crowded House, the Americans have swooped in and claimed the Southern Cross.

Locked away in a safety deposit box belonging to American "creative entrepreneur" Brinkley Warren are documents from the United States Government which he says recognises his claim of ownership over our most precious constellation.

Mr Warren, who has been in Wellington for the past year on a Fulbright arts scholarship, has had his documents notarised by a lawyer in this country.

He has also sent copies to the United Nations, the Russian Government and the Queen for their acknowledgement, although he is yet to hear back from any of them.

The papers spell out what he says are the precise astronomical co-ordinates of the Southern Cross, which was all he needed to file a claim with the courts in his home state of Georgia.

His claim was conceptual art, designed to get people to think "more universal", he said.

Mr Warren insists he will not be holding the defining symbol of our nation's flag to ransom. The statement of intention on his paperwork reads: "I do not plan to exploit citizens or the trans-cosmic consciousness of these stars, nor charge for the light or photons emitted by the aforementioned stars.

"Should an entity from ‘outer space' or worlds other than Earth wish to contest my claim, I would be happy to discuss their concerns and figure something out over a few margaritas and tacos."

As far as a legal foundation goes, he points to the UN Outer Space Treaty of 1967 - ratified by New Zealand - which forbids nations from extending their borders beyond Earth.

It does not, however, rule out a private citizen or company executing a property claim in space.

Maria Pozza, an expert in international space law at the University of Otago, agreed with Mr Warren's broad interpretation of the treaty, but said his claim to the stars might struggle to get off the ground if tested.

Mr Warren said he had not settled on what to do with his constellation.

"We'll see what happens. Although I'm not saying that if someone were to offer me some cash, I wouldn't come to the table and talk about it."

The Dominion Post