You might not expect to see an astrophysicist manning the counter of the general store in a small rural community, but it was that sparse population and subsequent dark skies that brought Paul Bishop to Naseby.

Mr Bishop will hand over the store to its new owners tomorrow and turn his attention fulltime to his passion Tours.

A graduate of Queen Mary University of London with a degree in astrophysics, Mr Bishop moved to Naseby three years ago to set up the tours, and bought the general store when a former employer told him was up for sale.

“It gave me something coming in while I got the tours established,” he said.

The tours began 90 minutes after sunset and took place on private farmland on Mt Buster Rd, where Mr Bishop set up telescopes for visitors to view the night sky as he “told a story” about what they were seeing.

He saw the tours as a combination of education, outreach and engagement. His enjoyment in sharing his knowledge was obvious.

“The tours usually last about an hour, but I had one that ran for two and a-half hours,” he said.

He was also excited about the process of an application by community development group Naseby Vision for accreditation as a Dark Sky Community.

Naseby Vision had been working with the Central Otago District Council and the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) since 2016 on the accreditation, which required changes to the district plan as a pre-requisite for registration.

If successful, the accreditation would be the first of its type in New Zealand, and differ from other IDA accreditations in the country which were for reserve and sanctuary areas without urban development.

The intention was to create a dark sky zone over Naseby to manage light spill that could have an adverse impact on the night sky conditions.

Proposed new provisions in the district plan would manage exterior lighting fixtures and any interior lighting fixtures with the potential to cause light spill, along with glare from large windows and doors that could detract from the quality of the dark skies.

A planned drop-in session on Tuesday evening was cancelled because of the Red covid alert setting, but an online session was to be held instead.