Star com­pass plan for dark skies re­serve

Wairarapa News - - FRONT PAGE - PIERS FULLER

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.

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