Saturday, April 20, 2024

New viewing platform for Rakiura/Stewart Island

One of Rakiura/Stewart Island’s most popular viewing spots will be upgraded with a new platform and safety barrier, the Department of Conservation (DOC) has announced.

Construction of the Observation Rock viewing platform is scheduled to begin this week.

DOC Operations Manager Rakiura, Alex Macleod says the upgrades will improve the visitor experience, and most importantly safety at the popular viewpoint.

“Observation Rock has provided an informal viewing platform for many years, with an informal track and viewing area pre-dating DOC. The site provides phenomenal views across to Ulva Island and the south of Rakiura,” says Mr Macleod.

“In recent times, it’s become increasingly popular with visitors as a great spot to view Rakiura’s night sky.”

Stewart Island/Rakiura Southland District Councillor, Jon Spraggon and Stewart Island/Rakiura Community Board chair, Aaron Conner, supported DOC’s decision to take on the project after it was raised by the community board as a health and safety matter.

“It will enhance the viewing area and make it a safer space for all users to view Paterson Inlet during the day and the dynamic night sky during the hours of darkness,” Cr Spraggon says.

Rakiura was designated as a Dark Sky Sanctuary in early 2019 by the International Dark Sky Association.

The platform was initially suggested by the Stewart Island/Rakiura Community Board as a safety solution to the unprotected edge at the site. Since the idea was raised, there has been a steady increase in stargazing visitors to the site between dusk and dawn.

Because of the increase in visitors and changing user group, making the site safer was an important call, Mr Macleod says.  

“A recent visitor risk assessment concluded that there is a significant fall hazard at this site, so we’re doing these upgrades to mitigate that risk,” he said.

The 9.5m x 4m platform will be contoured around the existing rocky outcrops. Seating and interpretation panels will be added at a later date. The wider project scope includes resurfacing the track to the platform.

The project is a joint initiative between DOC, the Rakiura Stewart Island Community Board, Rakiura Māori Lands Trust, Southland District Council, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and Great South.

The project has been funded by contributions from the Stewart Island/Rakiura Visitor Levy, and MBIE’s Tourism Infrastructure Fund. DOC contributed funding in the early stages of the project and will provide additional funding and project management until its completion.

It is expected to be completed in September.

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