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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. Our original application dossier can be found in our resources page.

As part of the application, UNESCO will send two evaluators to do a field evaluation of the area. These missions usually start 1 May the following year, however due to the Covid-19 pandemic this timeline was disrupted. As New Zealand borders were closed and many international travel restrictions were in place for about 2 years, the validation mission was delayed until 2022. 

In July 2022 we welcomed our two evaluators Nickolas Zouros (Greece) and Anchel Belmonte Ribas (Spain) to Waitaki as they considered our bid to become the first UNESCO Global Geopark in New Zealand. Read more about our evaluation mission here

The next step of the assessment was a report written by the evaluators which was be presented to the Global Geoparks Council for consideration. During the annual UNESCO Global Geoparks Council meeting in September 2022, the Council members assessed and considered 9 new applications for UNESCO Global Geopark accreditation. The UNESCO Global Geoparks Council proposed to forward the nomination of seven new UNESCO Global Geoparks to the Executive Board of UNESCO, for its endorsement during the 2023 Spring (European) session with Waitaki Whitestone Geopark being one of them. 

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The establishment and management of the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark has been a collaborative endeavour from the start. The Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Trust would like to extend a special thank you to Te Rūnanga o Moeraki, Waitaki District Council, New Zealand Commission for UNESCO, Vanished World, Geology Department of the University of Otago, GNS Science, Tourism Waitaki, OceanaGold, Adair Craik Chartered Accountants and communities of the Waitaki district and Geopark ambassadors for their support and involvement.

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