In 2000 a group of landowners 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 20 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 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 have opening 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. 

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