by Greta Yeoman
Lake Tekapo continues to undergo construction as the town’s popularity with tourists continues to grow.
New builds in the lakeside village include the construction of the new Earth and Sky astronomy centre on the lakefront.
Tekapo Community Board chairwoman Stella Sweney said the centre, which is expected to open in March, was one of two new sites in the town, along with a relocated, larger Youth Hostel Association-owned (YHA) hostel next door. Two other lots of land on the lakefront had been sold, which would potentially become retail businesses, she said.
The astronomy centre is expected to cost $11 million, of which $3 million has come from the Government’s historic Tourism Growth Partnership fund.
The fund closed in May 2017 and its $8 million annual allocation was rolled into the Tourism Infrastructure Fund.
The new fund provided the Mackenzie District Council with $294,000 to construct new car parking for visitors’ vehicles of and tour buses at the Church of the Good Shepherd.
Most of the car parking – except for 15 car parks to be mainly used for disabled parking – will shift to the western side of the Tekapo footbridge, which will make the popular site more pedestrian-focused, Ms Sweney said. “[It will be] a more peaceful area.”
Further south, Aoraki/Mt Cook Village is expected to be visited by close to a million people over the summer.
Department of Conservation eastern South Island operations director Andy Roberts said this season’s projects included starting a rebuild of the historic Hooker Hut – which was anticipated to be completed in 2020.
Demand for tramping in the park, particularly as the summer booking system for the popular Mueller Hut route reopened this week, was “already high”, Mr Roberts said.
This was particularly because the recent late snow had kept trampers staying mainly on the day walks around the village.
Mr Roberts said the department had also received “fantastic feedback” on its interpretation rangers – whose job last season was to share public information and stories of a particular place, including Aoraki.
Due to their popularity, there would be two interpretation rangers working in the park this season.