Mid Murray International Dark Sky Reserve to target more visitors through tourism grant

Since being officially declared an International Dark Sky Reserve last year, a 3200-square kilometre patch in the Mid Murray has been attracting visitors looking to view the star-filled night sky.

The Mid Murray Council, keen to capitalise on having best places on the planet to see the night sky, has received a grant to help develop a tourism strategy for the dark sky reserve.

The council has been awarded $20,000 through the Building Better Regions Fund and will use the funds to employ a consultant to develop and write the Murray River Dark Sky Astro Tourism Strategy.

The consultant will be tasked with consulting stakeholders, researching and analysing the Mid Murray's existing business and Astrotourism industry and developing a tourism strategy to capitalise on the newly declared dark sky reserve in the Mid Murray region.

Mid Murray Mayor David Burgess said the tourism strategy could look at a variety of ways to promote the reserve while also improving the experience for visitors.

"Some of it could be putting down concrete pads down ... around in the dark sky reserve so that people can come and set up their telescopes and have a good look at what is up there and enjoy the stargazing," he said.

The accreditation given by the International Dark-Sky Association is the only one of its kind in Australia and is among only 15 reserves in the world.

"It is just something else that sits in the gambit of things that we have in the region that seem to be growing almost week by week," Mayor Burgess said.

"It is no good having all these assets if we do not market them and have other people know that we have them."

Mayor Burgess said that there was anecdotal evidence that the international recognition the reserve has gotten has already started to bring in more visitors; all keen to learn about this unique patch of sky and the region around it.

Some tour operators have taken the opportunity to educate visitors not only on the astronomy of the night sky, but also on the indigenous version of the dark sky.

"...which I think is another great aspect of the way we are opening ourselves up the indigenous culture and seeing how the two can blend," Mayor Burgess said.

The tourism planning project is expected to commence in August 2020 and be completed at the end of January 2021.