Whitestone Geopark Manager Gerard Quinn last week met with former NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark who has been the Geopark’s patron since 2018 and long time patron of Vanished World (where the geopark project first began), for a catch up during the Economic Development New Zealand Conference in Blenheim. Together they discussed how the Whitestone Geopark aligns with United Nations sustainable development goals, a subject close to the heart of the former head of the UN Development Programme. In general, UNESCO Global Geoparks focus on eight of the 17 SDGs, such as quality education, decent work, economic growth and climate action. Ms Clark was impressed with the Geopark Trust’s appointment of a new geo-educator and a Geopark Coordinator, and the ramping up of engagement with the community across the Waitaki district. The application for Waitaki to achieve designation as a UNESCO Global Geopark will be lodged with UNESCO in Paris by 30 November.
Currently Helen Clark is Chair of the EITI (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative) International Board. The EITI is the global standard to promote the open and accountable management of oil, gas and mineral resources. Clark and Quinn acknowledged mining will be needed for developing a sustainable energy economy in the future. Mining is also often an important economic driver in places that later become global geoparks, as areas rich in geology are traditionally first discovered through this industry and this in turn leads to their protection, as a geopark’s emphasis on kaitiaki (stewardship) promotes the protection of important geosites for future generations. The mining industry therefore has a place within geoparks, but promoting good governance and transparency among these businesses is of high importance. Geoparks encourage best practice in protecting the environment which is relevant to the operations of a mining company. Mining companies in Waitaki are sensitive to any environmental impact and have developed their own sustainability policies, including being a member of the UN Global Compact , which is a call to companies to align strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and take actions that advance societal goals.
Ms Clark also expressed a desire for the Geopark trustees to have an involvement in the preservation of Folden Maar by lending any and all advice and support they could to this venture.
Mr Quinn said that ”the Trust was privileged to have a Patron of the calibre of Ms Clark. She is still achieving so much on the world stage, yet maintains her personal connections with and is incredibly well-informed about the district and the Geopark project”.