Media release: WEDS Governance Group Supports Dark Sky Application

Tuesday 5 March 2019


An application to the Provincial Growth Fund by the Martinborough Dark Sky Society was given a letter of support from the Wairarapa Economic Development Strategy [WEDS] Governance Group last week.

The Martinborough Dark Sky Society aims to create the world’s newest and potentially largest International Dark Sky Reserve, right here in Wairarapa. The project took another big step forward last week with its submission of a Provincial Growth Fund express application to develop a dark sky economic growth plan. A successful express application would see the volunteer run society obtain funding to have this plan developed by an independent professional organisation.


The Martinborough Dark Sky Society has spent the last year working hard to demonstrate the outstanding quality of sky in the Wairarapa and strength of community support to the international regulator. This creates the opportunity for the whole region to join the initiative, providing the final criteria is met.

A key part of the criteria is the development of an economic growth plan for the region. This is to ensure local businesses are ready for the exceptional tourism growth experienced by other dark sky reserves, such as Tekapo in South Island, and that the three Wairarapa councils can help prepare for the growth across the region.


“We’re grateful to the Wairarapa Economic Development Strategy team, members of parliament, universities, businesses, community members and international organisations for writing letters of support for this initiative,” said Chairman of the Martinborough Dark Sky Society, Lee Mauger.


“The Martinborough Dark Sky Society is pleased that several new businesses and jobs have already been created in the region and we look forward to seeing this success accelerate once our international certification is secured.”


Star Field, a spectacular new observatory complex in Ruakokoputuna, has already been created by John Whitby, and is set to attract international visitors with its astronomy, astrophotography and video astronomy.


“The same unique topography and climate which make Martinborough perfect for growing grapes are also the perfect conditions for astronomy,” said John.


Wellington’s Becky Bateman moved her family to Greytown to set up a new Astrotourism business ‘Under the Stars’, whose guided tours will make experiencing the night sky easy for everyone.

“Most people in the world can’t see the Milky Way anymore, but we have amazing dark skies in the Wairarapa which can provide breath-taking experiences for visitors,” said Becky.


“Perhaps even more exciting is we’re seeing these new businesses collaborating to deliver really exceptional experiences for visitors and locals,” said Lee.


“For example, John and Becky are working together on a new initiative called ‘Under the Stars at Star Field’ where visitors can have a guided tour of the night sky under a pristine dark sky with world class telescopes and Ranui Essentials recently combined an evening of lavender picking and star gazing.”

The letter of support, addressed to the Hon Shane Jones last week, identifies The Dark Sky Project as a regional visitor and tourism priority for WEDS. The economic plan which will result from the application is a vital pre-requisite for submitting the application to become a certified International Dark Sky Reserve, which must be completed by May 2019. The application is supported by the Governance Group for the Wairarapa Economic Development Strategy and Action Plan.




Media contact

Elisa Vorster

Carterton District Council

027 222 68 22

View the full strategy document at

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