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Capital landmark to change hands

Hon Dr Wayne Mapp
Minister of Research, Science and Technology
Minister of Defence
23 October 2009 Media Statement

Capital landmark to change hands

The Government is set to hand Wellington’s iconic Carter Observatory over to the Wellington City Council.

The Carter Observatory Act Repeal Bill received its first reading in Parliament yesterday. It transfers the assets of the Carter Observatory Board to the council.

Research, Science and Technology Minister Wayne Mapp said that the move paves the way for the Observatory to build its modern role as an educational and tourist attraction.

“The Carter Observatory has been a feature of the Wellington landscape for well over half a century. In that time it has evolved from being simply a national research observatory to focus on public education about space,” Dr Mapp said.

“This Bill sets the Observatory on a path to deliver a high-quality educational and tourism experience.

“The Observatory is now being refurbished. It will reopen early next year with a new exhibition and a range of programmes celebrating the culture, heritage and science of the Southern skies,” he said.

The council has managed the Observatory since 2007. The Crown has provided $2.2 million for the Observatory to make the move from Crown ownership into management by the council.


The Carter Observatory: background information

The Carter Observatory commemorates Charles Rooking Carter, who gifted his estate for the purpose of establishing an astronomical observatory in or near Wellington.

Parliament established the Carter Observatory in 1938 and it opened on 20 December 1941.

The Observatory became a base for astronomical research in New Zealand. Research began with solar investigations and when new staff joined during the 1970s it expanded to variable stars, galaxies, comets and asteroids.

The Carter Observatory became the National Astronomical Observatory of New Zealand in 1977. Its functions were to promote or carry out research or activity related to astronomy.

Since then, the role and functions of the Carter Observatory have changed considerably. There has been a shift away from an active research focus, towards a more educational and visitor-centred experience.

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