‘Astro-tourism has huge potential’ for region

Star Field Martinborough promises stargazers a premium dark sky experience when it opens on Friday. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Wairarapa’s sparkling night skies will come sharply into focus with the opening of the Star Field observatory this week.

The astronomy centre is just minutes out of town at Ruakokoputuna and promises an evening of guided stargazing for visitors.

The site in the hills behind Martinborough, has pristine skies due to the exceptionally low light pollution aided by excellent topography and a dry climate, Star Field founder John Whitby said.

A keen astronomer and astrophotographer, Whitby said he spent five years searching for the perfect site to build his observatories.

“For me it’s just as important to share Martinborough’s wonderful dark skies with fellow experienced astronomers as it is with people who have never seen stars close up before.”

Destination Wairarapa general manager David Hancock said Star Field is a significant addition to the region’s tourism landscape.

“Astro-tourism has huge potential, there is already strong evidence of this elsewhere in the country.

“The places that stargazers look for are usually remote, but for Martinborough it is literally just over the hill from the capital city.

“Visitors can spend an afternoon in vineyards, villages or at the beach before dinner, and then head off for a night exploring the universe beyond what you can see with the human eye.”

Star Field is working closely with the Wairarapa Dark Sky Society to help make it a ‘Gold Standard’ International Dark Sky Reserve.

If successful, Martinborough will become one of three internationally recognised dark sky locations in New Zealand – there are only 12 worldwide.

The Wairarapa Dark Sky Society secured $100,000 from the Provincial Growth Fund earlier this year to support their application for Dark Sky Reserve Accreditation.

A meeting on growth and opportunities presented by the proposed Dark Sky reserve will take place at 3Mile in Carterton tomorrow at 5.30pm, before the opening of Star Field on Friday.

People who cannot attend the meeting can have their say through an online survey available until the end of the month at wairarapadarksky.org.