The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve was created in June 2012, in recognition of the pristine skies of the Mackenzie which are essentially completely free of light pollution. It was recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association, following a detailed application made by the Aoraki Mackenzie Starlight Working Party. It's formation was the first in the southern hemisphere and the first to be declared with gold tier status, the highest that can be accorded.
The reserve encompasses Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park and the Mackenzie Basin, including the townships of Tekapo, Twizel and Mt Cook. It's goals are to promote star-gazing and astrotourism, as well as to protect the astronomical research undertaken at Mt John Observatory, operated by the University of Canterbury. The research centre has four optical telescopes for observing variable and binary stars, for work on extrasolar planets, the Galactic Centre, the Magellanic Clouds, comets, near-Earth asteroids and the study of stellar spectra at high resolution. It is the world’s southernmost astronomical observatory, at 44 degrees south.
A number of different astro tours are available in Tekapo. Check them out here >>