The Matariki Festival will run from 29 June to 31 July, with a range of events running throughout this period, including art exhibitions, photography workshops, rocket making, astronomy talks, star gazing, moon dancing, and a twilight ball.
Closing out the festival is the chance to see Mars at its brightest and closest since 2003, with Great Barrier’s pristine night sky making it one of the best places on Earth to get a glimpse.
Since being designated an International Dark Sky Sanctuary in June last year, the island has fully embraced the status and as result has been attracting astro-tourists from all around the world.
Gendie Somerville-Ryan, one of the Great Barrier residents responsible for applying to the International Dark Sky Association, is also part of the driving forces behind the Matariki Festival.
“We want to get the word out that the island is a fantastic place to visit in winter. In fact, with the shorter days, you don’t need to stay up so late to see the starry nights,” she says.
“With the island’s International Dark Sky Sanctuary status, it seemed like the perfect idea to create a star festival around Matariki. It’s an ambitious programme but this is the Barrier!”
While the island has traditionally been a popular summer destination, in the winter months, visitor numbers drop significantly. Part of the rationale for applying for Dark Sky status was to not only protect the night sky from light pollution for future generations but also be an opportunity for growing the local economy by attracting more visitors.
There are also opportunities for amateur astronomers or those interested in space to build their skills—how to measure how dark the sky is at their own place, a nightscape photography workshop, and a beginner’s astronomy course.
Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development general manager, destination, Steve Armitage says, “It’s fantastic to see the collaboration continuing on Great Barrier Island with a passionate bunch of people working together to make the island a year-round destination.