Plans for a Starlight Reserve and UNESCO world heritage recognition in the skies above Tekapo continue with former cabinet minister Margaret Austin meeting a UNESCO committee in Paris this month to discuss the proposal. Austin said that a working party is examining it before a world heritage meeting in Seville, Spain, in July and if approved it would go to the UNESCO general conference in October for adoption. It would be another year before it became official, but the wait would be worth it, she said. “Whenever world heritage sites are suggested, it results in enormous interest worldwide. It gives recognition, status and publicity.” Aware that the Mackenzie region is in a priceless tourist and scientific position, the local district council has imposed strict lighting regulations. It has only sodium street lamps shielded from above and decrees that all household lights must beam down. Floodlights are forbidden and all outdoor lighting must be switched off between 11pm and sunrise to maximise the view of the heavens. An observatory, which overlooks the village atop 1,031-metre Mount John, has six telescopes, including the country’s biggest, measuring 1.8 metres across, which is able to observe 50 million stars each clear night.