They can’t see stars at home so they’re flocking to see them here. Astro-tourism is putting the twinkle into Tekapo.

Pull up into Tekapo’s Church of the Good Shepherd car park after the sun goes down and you’ll find a swarm of international visitors, many capturing, on even the smallest digital camera, incredible images of a galaxy they’ve never seen with the naked eye.

The Mackenzie night sky is recognised internationally as a Dark Sky Reserve and there have been attempts in the past to gain UNESCO World Heritage status. Mackenzie District Mayor, Graham Smith, wonders how the town would cope, amid his estimate that visitor numbers are doubling year-on-year.

“If we got World Heritage status … we would seriously have to contemplate how we were going to manage the tourists.”

As part of a series Newsroom is running over summer, Christchurch documentary-maker Gerard Smyth takes a look at the stargazing opportunities bringing hundreds of tourists to Tekapo each night.

The series, called Changing South, looks at life the South Island – the people, the places and how events like the Christchurch earthquake have had a lasting impact. 

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