24 August 2018
The Church of the Good Shepherd and Earth & Sky have partnered together to launch a night-time experience at the famous Takapō (Lake Tekapo) heritage site.
Church Reverend, Andrew McDonald, says the guided tours are the church’s answer to sharing the stunning night-time views and experience of the grounds with the public, while protecting the natural landscape for future generations.
The church made the decision to close public access to the grounds at night indefinitely in December 2017, due to on-going destruction of the land by people accessing the grounds unguided.
“The Church of the Good Shepherd is famous for its astro-photography and star-gazing, where on a clear night the Milky Way galaxy displays an extraordinary backdrop to the little stone church,” says McDonald.
“Unfortunately, open public access was causing a lot of damage to the site at night. The land surrounding the church is a majestic heritage site and we believe in the importance of maintaining it for the future.
“We knew we wanted to continue to allow access to this beautiful part of Aotearoa, and decided working with a partner who could facilitate and manage tours of the site was the right approach.
“We are excited to be partnering with Earth & Sky to deliver a serene and educational experience for visitors to this sacred site. We want people to have the opportunity to enjoy this experience, but we also need to ensure we are protecting and maintaining it.”
The Church Night Tour will take visitors on a journey of exploration, revelation and serenity, with naked-eye stargazing, storytelling, astro-photography and an opportunity for reflection. A professional astro-photographer will also help visitors as they take photos around the church.
Earth & Sky guides will deliver the Church of the Good Shepherd tours. Earth & Sky deliver stargazing and observatory tours in Takapō. In 2014, they entered into a partnership with Ngāi Tahu Tourism, a business owned by Ngāi Tahu who have an intimate and long history in Takapō.
McDonald says Earth & Sky was the preferred partner for this project as it is a whānau-owned business driven by its values and commitment to the long-term intergenerational investment in Aotearoa, particularly in the regions.
Co-owner of Earth & Sky, Graeme Murray, says the aim of the partnership, as well as giving visitors an incredible guided tour, is to have a positive impact on the region and to protect its incredible natural landscapes for generations to come.
“This is a fantastic example of local businesses from within a community coming together and forming a partnership for the greater good.”
Opened in 1935, the Church of the Good Shepherd is the sole church in Takapō and continues to be a place of worship for local residents.
Tours will be piloted for six months starting from the 1st September and will be made a permanent experience if successful.