In 2000 a group of land owners and volunteers in the Duntroon area, with assistance from the Geology Department of Otago University, established the Vanished World Fossil Centre in Duntroon and the Vanished World trail with sites throughout the Waitaki District.  

For 17 years, Vanished World Inc has operated the ‘Vanished World Trail’ in the vicinity of Duntroon.

In 2018 the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO invited Expressions of Interest in the establishment of up to two UNESCO Global Geoparks in New Zealand.

As the global geopark opportunity has been explored, it has become apparent that the Waitaki has a range of potential geosites (geologically-interesting sites are known as ‘geosites’ in the parlance of UNESCO Global Geoparks) falling outside the current geographic extent of the Vanished World Trail. All geosites within the district have been mapped. This process has resulted in recognition that virtually the entire Waitaki district is covered with geosites. As a result, the Global Geopark’s boundaries have been established as being the existing boundary of the Waitaki district.

On 30 April 2018 Council lodged its Expression of Interest (EoI) in establishing the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark as the Waitaki Whitestone UNESCO Global Geopark. 

Irrespective of the nature of the outcome of the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO’s decision, the work undertaken by all of the participants in the Project Group and the Advisory Group supporting the global geopark application has resulted in a much-improved understanding of the wide range of attractions that the Waitaki district has as a geo-tourism destination.  

Visitors can continue to enjoy the Vanished World Trail, as interpretation and other assets are gradually developed in relation to the wider Waitaki Whitestone Geopark.

It is important to bear in mind that the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark is in its infancy, and will mature over time. The Waitaki Whitestone Geopark will be inviting volunteers to assist with the ongoing development of the geopark.

Read the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark application dossier here

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"What a fantastic window into the past. Today we saw fossil bones in limestone at two different sites. One set were whale bones. Just awesome that this trail has been put together, maintained and promoted."

— Mark Shipman, 

Vanished World visitor