Hi geoparkers.  As awareness of the geopark grows, we are often asked about the way in which the geopark and the Trust will work.  Here’s some answers to the most frequently asked questions.  We will be adding some more FAQs as we become aware of what people are interested in.

Frequently asked questions

Geopark a mystery? An easy explanation of what a UNESCO Global Geopark is.

Waitaki has loads of truly amazing geological sites. A geopark is a way to protect them and create a visitor experience that tells the story of our geology, heritage and culture. It educates people about our home and points them to a whole range of interesting cultural and heritage experiences. Geoparks bring a wide range of social benefits – such as increasing our sense of identity and getting all sorts of people to collaborate with each other on a range of projects. It also aims to be a platform upon which people can build sustainable businesses and grow the economy for everybody. Geoparks lift the economies of the places they exist in. The creation of innovative local enterprises, new jobs and high quality training courses will be stimulated as new sources or revenue are generated through geotourism.

UNESCO definition: UNESCO Global Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development. Their bottom-up approach of combining conservation with sustainable development while involving local communities is becoming increasingly popular. At present, there are 169 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 44 countries. Learn more about UNESCO Global Geopark on their website.

Where is the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark?

The Waitaki District is located on the South Island of New Zealand, around three hours drive South from Christchurch or one hour North from Dunedin. The district spans around 7200km2 and includes over 40 sites of geological interest - some from a purely scientific point of view, others that offer spectacular viewing for the general public.

Isn't the Waitaki District already a Geopark?

Yes! We've always known our geology was unique and internationally significant. The Waitaki District has been functioning as a Geopark for over 17 years thanks to the volunteer community geoscience organisation Vanished World Inc. which operates a visitor centre in Duntroon. Vanished World also manages geosites, and facilitates research and tours which explore and explain the special geology of the area. The Waitaki Whitestone Geopark is currently an Aspiring Global Geopark, awaiting the evaluation by UNESCO. L earn more about our UNESCO journey. Our vision is to build on this existing experience to incorporate such activities as 'geocopter' (Geopark-focused helicopter) tours, geogliding (Geopark-focused soaring and mountain gliding) tours, geoscience trails, Mãori heritage & culture trails, and 'geogastronomy' (food-focused) trails and events. All of which will weave the stories of our people, their enterprise and heritage together as they relate to the geology of this spectacular part of Aotearoa.

Does a UNESCO Global Geopark mean more visitors?

Yes. One of the advantages of achieving UNESCO Global Geopark status is that it arms the Waitaki with a world-recognised brand. We want domestic and international visitors to come to our place and learn about our remarkable geology, geography, culture and heritage. More visitors mean more growth and jobs for local people. We are working on plans to ensure the necessary infrastructure is in place to cope with this expected increase.

How are sites protected?

UNESCO accreditation requires that measures be put in place to protect environmental, cultural and geologically significant sites before UNESCO Global Geopark status is awarded. Every geosite will differ in its protection needs. While some will stay unavailable to the public, some might be able to receive more visitors, which means measures need to be put in place to protect the site and its value. The Waitaki Whitestone Geopark’s philosophy is to work together with the landowners and support them in what they want to do, while advocating for an appropriate and meaningful protection level. Stronger legal protection under the provisions of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) is being sought for each Geopark site through the Waitaki District Plan Review process. Naturally formed Geopark sites will be considered as Outstanding Natural Features (ONF) or Significant Natural Features (SNF). GNS Science have worked with Waitaki District Council to provide advice on the identification of the Geopark sites as ONF. ONF status will ensure that the protection of each Geopark site becomes a matter of national importance. It is anticipated that the District Plan Review will become a statutory document by the end of 2022 with naturally formed Geopark sites protected as either an ONF or an SNF.

How can I get involved?

Subscribe to our newsletter and become an ambassador for the geopark. Like us on Facebook for regular updates. Become a Geopark Volunteer and make a real difference by inspiring locals and visitors to learn, discover and be connected to our living planet and cultural histories. This a great opportunity to make a positive impact in your community, be part of our team, share your experience, learn new skills, and develop lasting friendships. Learn more about our Volunteer Programme here.

Are the Trustees paid?

No, the trustees are unpaid and volunteer their time. Where possible we cover expenses like petrol and parking when Trustees are doing Geopark work.

What does it cost to be a UNESCO Global Geopark?

The Geopark will be a wonderful asset for our residents. It will help us understand our home and tell our story to the world. Getting designation as a UNESCO Global Geopark will provide a framework of values and goals to guide our actions, worldwide profile for Waitaki and Aotearoa New Zealand, an increase in visitors to the area, and access to a network of UNESCO Geoparks to learn from and share with. Having UNESCO designation also increases the attractiveness of the geopark to potential sponsors and channel partners, presents the opportunity for a significant economic lift in the district and the creation of a large number of jobs, and increases the probability of the geopark become self-funding. In order to ensure the quality of UNESCO Global Geoparks, they are subject to a thorough revalidation every four years to examine their functioning and quality. The cost of belonging to the Global Geopark Network is about $ 2 600 per year. It is also expected that Geoparks network regionally at a cost of about $5 000 per year. Every four years geoparks are re-inspected by UNESCO, and that costs about $ 12-15 000.

What is Tourism Waitaki's role within the Geopark?

The Trust provides the framework for the community to develop the ‘geopark product’ – the collection of locations, information and experiences which Tourism Waitaki (TW) will promote internationally and domestically. TW can only promote the Waitaki experience to the level that exists; the Geopark is aiming to lift existing and develop new sites, attractions and experiences to a level which justifies more visitor stays and spend. Creating the Geopark platform provides both residents and visitors with a range of experiences and stories to take away, which is what modern day visitors want. TW will also help us with merchandising and supporting the creation of tourism experiences and businesses within the park.

Where are we in the process of UNESCO designation?

On 27 November 2019 the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Trust has submitted its final dossier to the New Zealand Commission of UNESCO to be forwarded to UNESCO in Paris. As part of the evaluation, UNESCO will send two evaluators to do a field evaluation of the area. These missions usually start 1 May, however due to the Covid-19 pandemic this timeline has been disrupted. As New Zealand borders are still closed and many international travel restrictions are in place, the validation mission will be delayed until it is safe for the evaluators to travel again. We anticipate the mission to be scheduled as soon as New Zealand borders are open to visitors again. Irrespective of the new timeline for the UNESCO validation mission, the work for us in Waitaki does not stop. We are working with our partners on interpretation and signage, touring routes, education programmes and much more.