The Mount John Observatory 'Space Park'
When we think of conservation we often think of waterways, mountains and endangered native species. However, we seldom consider conserving the night sky. New Zealand is often considered at the forefront of both conservation and astronomy. In an attempt to marry these two concepts, Margaret Austin, Alan Gilmore and the New Zealand Starlight Reserve Committee (NZSRC) presented their case for the creation of new conservation zones called starlight reserves at a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) conference in Paris in 2009. Starlight reserves is a concept idea in conservation being pushed by several major observatories worldwide of which the Mt John observatory is New Zealand’s proposed site. The NZSRC wishes to preserve the night sky and the heritage associated with it at the Mt John Observatory in Tekapo (Austin, Hearnshaw & Murray, 2009). The argument is that New Zealand should recognise the importance of the night sky, not only due to its significance to Maori, but also its significance to Pakeha settlers. One of the main driving factors behind the concept of starlight reserves is that expansion of towns and cities and the streetlight that accompanies it creates ‘light pollution’ that is quickly eating up our ability to stargaze. As Mt John Observatory is relatively close to the Tekapo township the creation of a starlight reserve at the observatory as a conservation scheme could have significant impacts on planning in the area. The starlight reserve concept is one that should be of interest to planners.... [Show full abstract]