Founded in 2004 by Takapō locals and night sky enthusiasts Graeme Murray and Hide Ozawa, we have grown from humble beginnings to now host over 40,000 manuhiri (visitors) each year on a range of exclusive stargazing experiences.
Our story starts in 2004 when Nagoya University of Japan proposed to establish a new mulit-million dollar research project at the Mt John Observatory. Hide and Graeme were instrumental in helping to complete the project and, as a result, were given the right to host tourism experiences at the observatory and provide astronomy outreach on behalf of the university. This impressive telescope - called the MOA (Micro-lensing Observations in Astrophysics) - is a collaborative project with universities around the world and, 15 years later, continues to play an important role in astronomical research.
Longtime champions of night sky appreciation and preservation, Graeme and Hide were early advocates to formally recognise and protect the skies of the region. The area was awarded Dark Sky Reserve status in June 2012 and today remains the world's first gold status and the largest Dark Sky Reserve. Their desire to protect the local dark skies may have been recognized however they had a strong desire to do more.
In July 2019 the next chapter in their journey was brought to life when they opened a new astronomy centre in the heart of Takapō, with partners Ngai Tahu Tourism. The centre aims to cement the region as the best destination in the world to discover the night skies. Boasting a state-of-the-art multimedia daytime astronomy experience, an impressive 125 year old Brashear telescope, and many other astronomical offerings, the centre is proudly a home for astronomy and stargazing in the region. It is a place for people to connect, to discover and to be inspired. A place that is uniquely Aotearoa (New Zealand) and one that will ultimately empower others to make a difference to night sky preservation.
At this same time, we launched our new name: Dark Sky Project. This change reflects Hide and Graeme's greater vision and purpose: to connect manuhiri to the night skies, igniting a lifelong passion for dark sky preservation. At Dark Sky Project we believe that the night skies should be accessible to everyone - for our health, for our environment, for our culture and for our discoveries. Our project is exactly that. We are on a journey to protect the skies for everyone and this is only just the beginning.
Our success to date and into the future is due to the collective efforts of so many including the University of Canterbury, the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve Board, the International Dark Sky Association, the Mackenzie District Council and the Brian Mason Trust to name just a small few. We are extremely grateful to all our partners and the generous organisations and people who have helped us along the way. They say it takes a village to raise a child - we say it takes a village to protect the stars. We are lucky to have that. Thank you.