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Eat the park: geogastronomy workshops present ways of partnering

The Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Trust held two Geogastronomy workshops in June at the Oamaru Opera House. Regional food, wine and beer producers, chefs and restaurateurs attended sessions on a range of topics such as collaborative production, supply chain considerations, geogastronomy branding and marketing, examples of geo food trails from geoparks around the world, and a demonstration of the yet to be released geopark app.

The importance of food tourism to the sector was discussed, as was the need for cross-seasonal visitor experiences which encouraged year round business support for Waitaki producers. Participants were invited to imagine what a geogastronomy trial piggy-backing the existing geosites and planned UNESCO accreditation of the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark might look like, and how it could work for them.

Chair of the WWG Trust, and Mayor for Waitaki Gary Kircher said, “This is one of the benefits of the Geopark as an umbrella marketing tool; there are a number of places around New Zealand which promote their region’s produce, but the Geopark ties our produce very closely to the soil and geology of Waitaki. The cross-marketing opportunities are significant, and our reputation for producing great food and wine underscores those opportunities.”

Craftwork Brewery owners Lee-Ann Scotti and Michael O’Brien said, “We think a coordinated approach to branding is a great idea. Waitaki District has so much going for it, and we are glad to be part of it. We would like to have a contact person to feedback ideas to, and would like to know who else is involved. So refreshing that Council has creative ideas for the community.”

Riverstone Kitchen’s Bevan Smith said, “The Geopark mission is a tremendous opportunity to bring together and showcase the diversity of fantastic food producers in our region, from the bespoke to the established. All of these producers benefit from the unique geology of the area, as it defines our landscape, soils and water.

The Waitaki region has long been home to many iconic industry products such as jersey benne’s, Kakanui potatoes, cheese and berry fruit, alongside the more traditional sheep, beef, cropping and dairy. We now have new emerging industries of wine, craft beer and hospitality, establishing themselves here, all of which contribute to accommodate growing tourism in our area.

Geogastronomy will help bring all these producers and industries together as a brand, so that we can clearly show visitors to our region, what we have to offer and where to go to experience it. This is not just about one or two big names, it’s about everything that’s great in the Waitaki, big and small.

These were engaging workshops with plenty of creative ideas that left us all hungry!

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