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One step closer to Global Geopark

The Waitaki Whitestone Geopark full Application Dossier has been sent to UNESCO in Paris. Now we wait!

Meeting room with many people listening to presentation
The project group deliberating on Geosites

It's away! This week we submitted our full, 300 page, Global Geopark Application Dossier to the NZ UNESCO commission for forwarding to UNESCO in Paris. Big thanks to everyone who committed their time and expertise to this process! After some serious meetings, numerous site visits and assessments covering everything from sustainable tourism, protection, public access, educational and scientific value, we know our Geopark from top to bottom and can't wait to share it with the world!

The proposed UNESCO Global Geopark documentation will be subjected to a desktop evaluation by the Paris Secretariat.  If the application passes this test, two international evaluators will be sent to the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark to undertake a full site assessment before making a final recommendation to the Paris Secretariat regarding accreditation as a UNESCO Global Geopark. 

The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO established an independent Expert Advisory Panel to scrutinise the quality of the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark application. It unanimously endorsed the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark’s dossier, which was then recommended to the National Commission last week to advance to UNESCO in Paris.

Dr Geoff Hicks, Natural Sciences Commissioner and Chair of the Expert Advisory Panel said:

“The international significance of Waitaki’s geological features, coupled with clear community engagement and proposed tourism opportunities, collectively impressed the expert panel.The National Commission was pleased with the high quality of the application, which sets a clear vision with achievable targets.”

If Waitaki Whitestone Geopark becomes a UNESCO Global Geopark it would add geographic balance to the present distribution of geoparks. There are 144 geoparks across 38 countries but none in Australasia and only eight others in the Southern Hemisphere.

 “The Waitaki Whitestone Geopark has come a long way in a very short period of time (ironic given its narrative arc is a story 35 million years in the making),” says Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Trust Chair and Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher. “This latest milestone moves us even closer to establishing New Zealand’s pre-eminent Geopark, a grassroots tourism venture and New Zealand first.”

The process has involved numerous community information sessions, as the Trust established its framework for a sustainable tourism business.

“The dossier process has already sparked scientific curiosity in the region and pride in the district’s geology,” says Gary. “We worked hard to build corporate and community partnerships which in turn encouraged people to get behind the project. This is absolutely the goal of a geopark – to teach people about our natural and cultural heritage as well as the area’s geology.”

In the process, the Trust also signed an MOU with Lincoln University’s new Centre of Excellence: Sustainable Tourism for the Regions, Landscapes and Communities -  which will focus significant resource on research about sustainable tourism in the Waitaki district.

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