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Returning stargazing and astronomy education to Christchurch

10 October 2018

Help the Arts Centre of Christchurch, Te Matatiki Toi Ora, return
stargazing and astronomy education to the central city

Stargazing is set to return to the central city once the Arts Centre of Christchurch, Te Matatiki Toi Ora, secures $10 million needed to support the restoration of its Observatory Tower.

The restoration of the independent charitable trust’s severely earthquake-damaged Observatory Tower and Biological Laboratory will see it rebuilt on the original site, to the original external plan and using, where possible, original materials. Hidden seismic strengthening and modern amenities will ensure its integrity.

Arts Centre chief executive Philip Aldridge says the funds are needed as the cost of carrying out both strengthening and restoration of the Historic Place Category 1 listed building using heritage materials and traditional techniques is very high – about $25,000 a square metre.

“While we have been very fortunate to recently secure an immensely generous $4.83 million grant from the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board for this restoration, we are hoping many businesses and individuals will support this wonderful cause and help us reinstate this taonga for generations to come,” he said.

“Once restored, the Observatory Tower will be returned to its rightful position as a powerful education tool and magnificent place of discovery and wonder for Cantabrians and visitors of all ages.”

The damaged astronomy dome will be replaced by one that is comfortable and fit-for-purpose for night-time stargazing. It is anticipated the Gothic Revival-style building will boast interactive resources and tools to allow visitors to learn more about astronomy, and a new education room.

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The restoration will also allow a painstakingly restored piece of Christchurch history – the 154-year-old, University of Canterbury-owned Townsend Teece Telescope – to return to its home, enabling new generations of people to unearth secrets of the cosmos from the heart of the city.

University of Canterbury Associate Professor Karen Pollard says: “Telescopes are very useful vehicles for introducing children to science and teaching them to ask questions about how the world and the universe works. This is why the observatory is so valuable – it was very accessible and was a way of bringing astronomy and science to children and the wider public.”

A new fundraising campaign urging potential donors to “Be a star” has been launched to help close the funding shortfall. For those who donate, a virtual star will be named in their honour for helping us bring stargazing and astronomy education back to the central city.

Donations for the restoration of this internationally significant heritage landmark can be made by visiting our website ( or contacting the Arts Centre via phone (03 366 0989) or email

Work on the tower, which is part of the Arts Centre’s next restoration phase, is due to start in the first quarter of 2019.


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