Astrotourism in the Aoraki Mackenzie district. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

HELEN HOLT
helen.holt@age.co.nz

With Wairarapa aiming to become a dark sky reserve, a team of astrology experts will teach tourism operators everything there is to know.

Canterbury University astrology professor John Hearnshaw started the Aotearoa Astrotourism Academy in 2021 after seeing a rise in astrology-based tourism.

He will host a weekend-long workshop in Martinborough in July. This workshop was initially scheduled for March but was postponed due to covid.

The workshop will have a small team of expert instructors to offer short courses on all aspects of night sky guiding.

This will be the third astrotourism workshop after two planned in Tekapo and Twizel – both areas part of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve.

The workshop was aimed at astrotourism operators and guides, but Hearnshaw hoped to see amateur astronomers there as well.

“It’s usually about 50-50 tourism operators and amateurs.

“The course is not at university level. This is basic astronomy, a hands-on course to teach people how to look through a telescope and what to look for. We will teach how to read co-ordinates and timekeeping.

“Astronomy has a lot of jargon.

“This will be an intense two and a half-day course to teach how to run a dark sky tour.”

He said most people attending were from Wairarapa but would also have people from Auckland and South Island.

He said there had been a growing interest in astrotourism since 2000 when Lake Tekapo began attracting tourists – about 150,000 a year before 2020.

The Wairarapa Dark Sky Association is applying for an International Dark Sky Reserve status for Carterton and South Wairarapa Districts. The status required clear skies and almost no light pollution and was yet to be granted by the international board based in Arizona.

There were 20 official reserves in the world, including Aoraki Mackenzie. Stewart Island is also an unofficial dark sky sanctuary.

Hearnshaw said there were areas just 10km away from Martinborough which were more than adequate for star gazing.

He hoped for a clear night to see the stars and at least 20 would attend to help spark interesting discussions about astrology and the tourism industry.

  • The workshop will be at Martinborough Hotel on July 8-10.


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