The sky's the limit

Tourism and agriculture are the backbone of New Zealand’s economy. One Qualmark licence holder has embraced the best of both sectors to carve a niche foothold in the visitor economy.

Nestled in the remote landscape of privately-owned Omahau Hill Station in Mackenzie Country, Skyscape is offering visitors a unique perspective of New Zealand – and indeed, Earth.

The view from within the SkyBed

The brainchild of husband and wife team, Bridget and Bevan Newlands, Skyscape offers visitors a spot to relax, immerse themselves in nature, experience a High-Country Station by day, and explore the Dark Sky Reserve by night.

Officially opened in May 2017, Skyscape has been a serendipitous journey for former teachers Bridget and Bevan, one borne from the desire to raise a family in New Zealand’s rural high country.

“I grew up on a farm in South Canterbury, which was wonderful, and we wanted the same experience for our children. I knew how difficult it was though, to run a sheep and beef farm in the high country. It is definitely a life-style not a money maker. We researched opportunities to create an additional revenue stream that meant we could enjoy the lifestyle, but without as much stress as straight farming,” says Bridget.

The result was a boutique accommodation option – SkyBed, an off-the-grid, environmentally friendly, glass cabin with luxury amenities that offers uninterrupted views of the night sky and Tekapo region; and additional farm tours. SkyScape took four years of building design and innovation to gain resource consent and building consent, as well as putting together a sound business plan before the first foundation stone was laid.

“It was a long-winded process and we’ve streamlined things as we’ve gone. We’ve focused on quality over quantity and at this stage just have the one SkyBed – though we have consent for five and have plans to build next year. We created Skyscape for stargazing and it has proved incredibly popular. When we opened we thought our audience would be baby boomers but have been surprised at the huge mixture of people we’ve had through – from students coming up from Dunedin to international travellers to older couples. We tend to have honeymooners at least once a week. In the year to 31 August 2018 we had 94.8% occupancy. Everyone gets something different from the experience,” says Bridget.

The Dark Sky Reserve

Skyscape’s success is reflected in gaining a Qualmark Gold Standard Sustainable Business award and being accredited as 4 Plus Boutique Lodge.

“We see Qualmark as the standard for quality in New Zealand. It was important to us to gain Qualmark status and show that we are a quality product.”

Skyscape also won the Emerging Business Award and Innovation and Technology Awards at the 2018 South Canterbury Business Awards.