Media Release: Council supports Heritage Site listing for Carkeek Observatory

4 May 2020

South Wairarapa District Council has signalled its initial support for a proposal by Heritage New Zealand (HNZ) to add Featherston’s Carkeek Observatory to the New Zealand Heritage List as a Category 1 historic place.

Councillors agreed to support the initiative at a Council meeting held on Wednesday 29 April 2020 via video conference and will make a submission to HNZ before its consultation process closes on 21 May 2020.

The Observatory, a modest timber structure dating back to circa 1867, is New Zealand’s earliest surviving astronomical observatory. Built on farmland by local amateur astronomer, Stephen Carkeek, it has been recognised by HNZ for its crucial role in the history of astronomy and the development of science.

At the Council meeting, Councillor Garrick Emms expressed the historic importance of the site for locals as well as visitors. “I am really excited about this proposal. This is an opportunity to celebrate past innovation and enrich our sense of identity and culture with this wonderful 150 year old artefact. HNZ’s proposal is also a great driver for tourism and will dovetail nicely with the Wairarapa International Dark Sky Reserve project and a proposal for a walking and cycling trail to be developed close by.”

Council noted that the Observatory is currently in a state of disrepair and agreed to a recommendation by HNZ to undertake further investigation, including costings, to conserve the relic. This work would be to stabilise the ruin and the archaeological site, rather than restore it.

HNZ has publicly notified the proposal under the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 and is seeking submissions from the public and interested parties. Council is encouraging residents to find out more about the Observatory and make their own submissions to ensure this important slice of history is preserved.

Full details about the proposal and how to make a submission are available online at


Media contact:

Amy Wharram

Communications Manager

027 252 2863

Page Reader Press Enter to Read Page Content Out Loud Press Enter to Pause or Restart Reading Page Content Out Loud Press Enter to Stop Reading Page Content Out Loud Screen Reader Support