The Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Trust is delighted to announce a significant milestone in its mission to redefine geotourism experiences in New Zealand. The Trust has appointed Visitor Solutions & Partners to develop a comprehensive business case for a Geopark Discovery Hub. The hub is envisioned to be the cornerstone of the Trust's aim to elevate geotourism, education, and community engagement in the Waitaki region while unlocking the social and economic benefits of being New Zealand’s first UNESCO Global Geopark.
Geotourism is more than just visiting geological features – it starts with an understanding of geology, the climate and how they shape the plants and animals of the area. This allows for a rich understanding of cultural history, especially Māori culture, because it informs how people have lived in a place in the past and how they live in the present. Geotourism in New Zealand provides opportunities for:
Supporting sustainable travel practice with a light footprint
Deepening travellers’ understanding of the Māori world, particularly of mana whenua attachment to land and waters and their intrinsic value
Increasing value by encouraging slow tourism and tapping into new areas of market demand
Visitor Solutions & Partners are no strangers to the Geopark Trust's mission, having previously contributed to the Geopark vision with their 2019 Validation Case. The report proposed a self-sustaining model and outlined how the Geopark could generate its own funding streams. One of the core proposals in the Validation Case was the creation of a revenue generating Geopark Hub.
Manager of the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark, Lisa Heinz, says: “We are looking forward to seeing Visitor Solutions’ interpretation of the visionary ideas as they work in close collaboration with the Geopark Trust, mana whenua, and local stakeholders.”
Partially funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment’s (MBIE) Innovation Programme for Tourism Recovery, the Geopark Trust is determined to leverage MBIE support to construct a robust business case. This support will be matched by contributions from the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Trust, Tourism Waitaki, and Waitaki District Council given the connections with the Waitaki Destination Management Plan and Hāpaitia te Waitaki Economic Development Strategy.