Star compass plan for dark skies reserve
Plans to turn the south-eastern corner of the North Island into a dark sky reserve have kickstarted other ideas to attract people to South Wairarapa.
A group of locals want to build a Ma¯ori star compass on top of a hill behind the seaside town of Lake Ferry to take advantage of the region’s deep black skies and glittering celestial bodies.
Reuben Raihania Tipoki of Lake Onoke on the south coast believes the stars have aligned with the council already moving ahead with plans to build a track up to a spot which would be perfect for an observation circle.
‘‘You can get pretty good 360-degree views. The more sky you can see, the better,’’ he said.
Tipoki became interested in Ma¯ori astronomy when he learned celestial navigation on board seafaring waka.
He said it can be used to teach in the traditional Ma¯ori way, where stars were used as seasonal cues for harvesting and planting while certain stars were rising and falling in the heavens.
‘‘It would be like a calendar which will help us track the changing of the seasons.’’
The concept is to place carved pou (poles) in a circle marking various key points on the compass.
‘‘Since we learned that it was quite likely we were going to become a dark sky reserve, we started talking about doing this,’’ Tipoki said.
‘‘It will be a great tourism feature and also a great thing to use for education by taking schools up there.’’
Ray Lilley of the Martinborough Dark Sky Society said the project is exactly the kind of development they hoped would result from the establishment of a dark sky reserve in the region.
The society is hosting a director of the International Dark-sky Association (IDA) - Dr John Barentine of Tucson, Arizona - next week, and showing him around the potential site for the star compass and an astronomy centre.
The IDA will decide on the society’s application to have the south eastern corner of Wairarapa made into a dark sky reserve.
‘‘This is tremendously exciting in the development of the whole dark sky reserve idea in New Zealand.
‘‘We’re delighted that (Ngati) Kahungunu want to get involved and join us in this particular waka.’’
He said it was natural Maori were involved with the dark sky reserve aspirations as it was their star gazing prowess that led them to discover New Zealand.
‘‘After all it was Kupe who came to this Wairarapa coast twice. How did he do that? By using the stars. Astronomy is a fundamental part of Ma¯oridom.’’
It wouldn’t be the first Ma¯ori star compass in Aotearoa but would be the only one in a dark sky reserve if plans go ahead.
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council built the teaA¯ a Rangi Star Compass at its Waitangi Regional Park in Clive, which was installed last year.
The installation includes a circle of pou (posts), stones and a whaharoa (gateway) and was Adeveloped¯ by the tea a Rangi Educational Trust.
The star compass at Lake Ferry is the brainchild of local man Reuben Raihania Tipoki.