Earth and Sky headquarter details released for Tekapo development

The night sky in Tekapo has become an international astro-tourism attraction.
FRASER GUNN

The night sky in Tekapo has become an international astro-tourism attraction.

Tekapo will be one of only a few places in the world to house historical astronomical equipment come 2018.

Earth and Sky's new, multi million dollar headquarters in Tekapo will include a historic 125-year-old telescope, retail section, restaurant and bar, an experience zone and staff facilities, general manger Margaret Munro said.

The new details about plans for the project come after the first business in the Tekapo lakefront development, a new Four Square supermarket, was officially opened recently. 

Aerial view showing Lake Tekapo developments.
JOHN BISSET/STUFF

Aerial view showing Lake Tekapo developments.

The Youth Hostel Association (YHA) building will be the next business to be built, Mackenzie District mayor Graham Smith confirmed in June. 

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*Four Square first business to open in Tekapo development
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The Earth and Sky headquarters will be one of only a few in the world to house a historical astronomy optical telescope, the Brashear​ telescope, Munro said. 

Named after american astronomer Dr John Brashear​ the telescope is more than 125 years old, is 18 inches in width, weighs over 7 tonne, and has an 8 metre long tube, she said. 

Munro said it was granted to Earth and Sky by the University of Pennsylvania, where Brashear was a chancellor. 

The telescope was originally granted to the Mt John Observatory when it was established in the 1960s, but due to the cost of a dome to fit the "huge" telescope it was never constructed, Munro said. 

The telescope was then handed over to the Yaldhurst Museum, near Christchurch, to house if it could raise the required funds to display it as a working exhibit, which it could not.

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A special dome feature will be incorporated into the design of the headquarters, which would allow people to use the telescope. It will be the first time the telescope has been fully reconstructed and able to be used since it came to New Zealand. 

"You will still be able to see the same objects but through a historical original," Munro said. 

The centrepiece of the building will also detail all of the history surrounding the telescope, and astronomy both in New Zealand and worldwide. 

The building is expected to be more than 1000 square feet, she said. 

The Tekapo lakeside development includes a new five-star hotel, commercial area, youth hostel, car parking, playground and landscaping. 

Munro said the new single storey building would be the first building next to the carpark where the new Four Square was at the western end of town.

"It will be a big win for Tekapo."

Earth and Sky would still operate from the Mt John Observatory, but new features such as "check ins and departures" would be operated from the new building and a new option of day experiences, where people could learn about the history of the stars in the Southern sky, would be available, Munro said. 

It was expected some 200,000 visitors would come to Earth & Sky over the next year for the observatory tours.

She said there were a lot of people who drove through Tekapo who did not stay in the town overnight

The new building would give people a day-time activity, which was "something new for the region". 

Ngai Tahu Tourism announced in September last year it would partner with the astro-tourism company in the multi million dollar facility.

Munro said it was important to have Ngai Tahu on board to have the connection with New Zealand, and to have the cultural experience and awareness of the "stories with the stars" incorporated into the venture. 

Building of the headquarters is expected to start in December this year, with an expected opening date in December 2018.

Some details were still confidential and going through a confirmation process with Ngai Tahu, such as the cost and the name of the new building, Munro said. 

"It's a bit premature to say what it is yet." 

The final completed interior designs were still be decided, and would go to the Mackenzie District Council for resource consent, she said. 

Ngai Tahu Tourism would not comment until the final stages of designs had been completed, which was expected to happen in the next few weeks. 

 - Stuff

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