Set in Stone: Geopark Trust Deed signed


Geopark trust deed signing night image

A story 35 million years in the making featuring volcanos, moa and 2 metre-tall penguins had its latest instalment inscribed by human hand on Monday, August 13, 2018, when the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Trust Deed was signed by Ngāi Tahu representative David Higgins, Mayor for Waitaki District Gary Kircher, and Vanished World Incorporated’s Mike Gray as the first three of a potential seven trustees.

The Waitaki Valley was once a sea teeming with marvellous beasts such as shark-toothed dolphins, who swam in large shallow bays until a ripe old age, and when they died, fell to the sea floor and became the creamy limestone of Ōamaru fame. Because of its superbly unique geological heritage, the Waitaki District is home to many sites of international significance and now desiring to become part of the network of UNESCO Global Geoparks. When the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO commissioners and members of the
Commission’s Expert Advisory Panel visited Ōamaru to tour the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark and witnessed the signing of the trust deed into official record on Monday 13th August at the Ōamaru Opera House, this goal moved ever closer.

The UNESCO Global Geopark network celebrates earth heritage and promotes sustainable local economic development through geotourism. A UNESCO Global Geopark uses geological heritage in connection to an area’s cultural identity to give the people who live there a sense of pride, generate new sources of revenue and safeguard geological treasures.

  • Fact 1: Some UNESCO Geoparks cross national borders - the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark unites the Republic of Ireland, the UK and Northern Ireland.
  • Fact 2: Ōamaru’s Cape Wanbrow is actually an extinct volcano. You can find some of the best examples of pillow lava in the world there.
Mayor Gary Kircher said that a huge debt of gratitude was due the Vanished World volunteers who have worked tirelessly on fostering the dream of a Geopark over the past 17 years. “Without the efforts of these far-sighted people, we would not have been in a position to bid for UNESCO Global Geopark accreditation”, he said. “It was a couple of years ago when I first met with their committee to discuss aspirations for their area to become this thing called a Geopark. Fast forward to today, and we are well on our way to achieving that dream!”

The Waitaki District is the winner, according to Mayor Kircher. “We have yet to complete the business case for the Geopark, but it is clear that we have some very special features and stories to tell, and people will want to come to our place to experience them. That is going to be good for the whole district, with sites spread right across the 7,000 square kilometres of Waitaki.” Mayor Kircher also paid tribute to Council CEO Fergus Power and his team. “To get to this  stage as quickly as we did required a lot of hard work from some very skilled people. Mr Power  has done a brilliant job in marshalling those resources to succeed in such a short time.”

To better appreciate the special nature of Waitaki Whitestone Geopark, the commissioners will enjoy the role of ‘first geotourists’ - taking in everything the park will eventually offer the world. During their visit, UNESCO officials enjoyed a walking tour of the Victorian Quarter, a trip to Parkside Quarries (famous for its Ōamaru stone), and a Heliventures NZ Geocopter flight over Anatini where fossils of baleen whales protrude from the rock. As well as seeing the mighty braided Waitaki River from above and hovering by the ‘bad land’ outcrops of the Clay Cliffs they’ll have experienced ‘geogastronomy’- food and wine grown within the park’s borders and imbued with the flavours, history and character of the area.

Waitaki District Council Chief Executive Fergus Power said, “As Chair of Vanished World, Mike Gray has worked tirelessly to advance this project and has been key to its success. Achieving national nomination is a great achievement for the Waitaki Whitestone Aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark. Final preparations are now being made regarding the submission of the final dossier to Paris. This dossier will identify the nature of the proposed global geopark in finer detail, and include a global geopark management plan. The dossier is due to be deposited with the UNESCO Secretariat in Paris in November. I am confident we will be successful.”

Page reviewed: 17 Aug 2018 1:23pm