Frequently Asked Questions


​What’s a UNESCO Global Geopark?

UNESCO Global Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development, all of which is done with the involvement of the local community. There are 140 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 38 countries, but none in Oceania.

Isn’t the Waitaki district already a Geopark?

Yes! We’ve always known our geology was unique and internationally significant. The Waitaki district has been
functioning as a Geopark for over 17 years thanks to the volunteer community geoscience organisation Vanished World Inc. which operates a visitor centre in Duntroon. Vanished World also manages geosites, and facilitates research and tours which explore and explain the special geology of the area. 

Our vision is to build on this existing experience to incorporate such activities as ‘geocopter’ (Geopark-focused helicopter) tours, geogliding (Geopark-focused soaring and mountain gliding) tours, geoscience trails, Māori heritage & culture trails, and ‘geogastronomy’ (food-focused) trails and events. All of which will weave the stories of our people, their enterprise and heritage together as they relate to the geology of this spectacular part of Aotearoa.

Why are we doing this?

A geopark is a way of connecting our communities to each other, our history and the land we live on. Geoparks lift the economies of the places they exist in. We are seeking UNESCO status for the Waitaki Whitestone
Geopark because it provides a sustainable framework to promote and advance science, education and economic development within the district.
We will tell the story of how the geography of the geopark has shaped the lives and culture of our people, including iwi, and enhance awareness and understanding of key issues facing society, such as using the Earth’s resources sustainably, mitigating the effects of climate change and reducing natural disaster-related risks. The creation of innovative local enterprises, new jobs and high-quality training courses will be stimulated
as new sources of revenue are generated through geotourism.

How much will it cost? 

The Waitaki District Council is acting as lead facilitator to get the Geopark up and running. Provision for a base level of support of around $40,000 per annum for the next 10 years has been built into the Waitaki District Council’s Long Term Plan. The Waitaki Whitestone Trust has been established to govern the development of the geopark. 

Does UNESCO pay for the UNESCO Global Geopark?

UNESCO doesn’t pay anything towards the establishment or operation of a UNESCO Global Geopark. However, successful accreditation as a UNESCO Global Geopark will mean that we get to join their network of UNESCO Global Geoparks - the ultimate gold standard. This will raise the profile of the Waitaki around the world. UNESCO also organises sharing and learning experiences between geoparks which we will benefit from.

Does a UNESCO Global Geopark mean more visitors?

Yes. One of the advantages of achieving UNESCO Global Geopark status is that it arms the Waitaki with a world-recognised brand. We want domestic and international visitors to come to our place and learn about our remarkable geology, geography, culture and heritage. More visitors mean more growth and jobs for local people. We are working on plans to ensure that the necessary infrastructure is in place to cope with this expected increase.

How are sites protected?

UNESCO accreditation requires that measures be put in place to protect environmental, cultural and geologically significant sites before UNESCO Global Geopark status is awarded. We have a project team working now on how to provide safe and environmentally sensitive access to the significant geosites while ensuring that they are protected.

Where are we now? 

With the active support of the NZ National Commission for UNESCO, the Trust is seeking designation of the area as a UNESCO Global Geopark. This will provide a framework of values and goals to guide our actions, worldwide profile for Waitaki and Aotearoa New Zealand, an increase in visitors to the area, and access to a network of UNESCO Geoparks to learn from and share with.

The Trust will submit an application to UNESCO in November 2019, requesting an inspection of the Geopark in mid-2020, and designation the year after.​

Subscribe to our newsletter by visiting our website at and become an ambassador for the geopark. Like us on Facebook and Instagram for regular updates.

We are developing a Friends of the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark programme and ways for businesses and individuals to become sponsors and/or commercial partners. 

Page reviewed: 24 May 2019 2:28pm