Ngāi Tahu Dark Sky Project brings back the night sky

By D'Angelo Martin

The Dark Sky Project is a world-first fully-immersive astronomy experience free of the light pollution of the modern era.  It brings together science and tātai aroraki (Māori astronomy) to tell the stories of the night sky in a profound way. 

A new home for astronomy and a place to reconnect with the skies above, the $11mil Dark Sky Project tells stories and educates people on the stars we see in the total darkness of night.

For the people of Ngāi Tahu and Tekapo, it's a great opportunity for tourism for the area.  Quintin Hall, chief executive for Ngai Tahu Tourism says, "We've created a story where we've blended Ngāi Tahu astronomy stories with traditional astronomy and science to create a really engaging experience for our manuhiri."

With the effects of climate change on our earth, kaimahi and iwi representatives from the facility also explain the importance of looking after the environment.

Alex Solomon is one of the tour guides at the Dark Sky Project, "In my opinion, we've lost that connection and knowledge about the skies, but lucky for us here at the Dark Sky facility we're able to remind them of these stories, but also, we need to look after the skies and what we do in terms of being environmentally friendly, the same way we look after mother nature." 

Tewera Kingi, who is Ngāi Tahu mana whenua says, "When those of our loved ones pass on they then embark on the journey to the star Puanga, this knowledge has been passed on from generation to generation, the sacred journey of the dead, to Puanga, to the star Rehua as well."

Iwi leader Rāwiri Higgins says the mana whenua have returned to affirm their presence in this area.

"We have now placed our footprint back into this land, we've been away from this place for so long  We were driven away originally by the colonisers who settled in this area, now we're back here, very significant footprint on this land right in front of our roto atua."

The success of the Ngāi Tahu Dark Sky Project will hopefully create a ripple effect, with the possibility of more such facilities written in the stars.