Best practice learning from Global Geoparks conference

Geoff Hicks (left) and Gerard Quinn at Geoparks conference.

An international Global Geoparks Network conference in Trentino, Italy provided a powerful networking opportunity this month.

The members of the Network, of which membership is obligatory for UNESCO Global Geoparks, are committed to working together, exchanging ideas of best practice, and joining in common projects to raise the quality standards of all products and practices of a UNESCO Global Geopark.

Natural Sciences Commissioner Dr Geoff Hicks and Waitaki District Council Economic Development Manager Gerard Quinn attended the 8th biennial meeting of delegates/members associated with the Global Geoparks Network. The purpose of the conference was to welcome new members and to share best practice within geoparks globally, as well as update the assessment protocols for existing geoparks.

“The meeting focused on what it takes to be a successful and sustainable geopark,” says Geoff. “The theme of geoparks, sustainable tourism and local development provided an exceptional opportunity for aspiring geoparks to gain insight into what it takes to develop and manage these enterprises from the ground up.”

The Global Geoparks Network comprises 140 geoparks across 38 countries. The conference was attended by 850 delegates from 60 countries, with more than 1,000 participants. It explored the scale and scope of scientific research carried out within geopark boundaries and what it takes to become a successful geopark with a sustainable business model.

“One of the main points I took away was that community buy-in is the key to success,” says Geoff. “It is essential to establish strong stakeholder relationships early on in the planning process and maintain them. Public education initiatives also need to take centre stage.”

Gerard says attending the conference was an excellent opportunity to meet others engaged in geopark sustainability issues.

“It was a chance to build a greater understanding of how geoparks operate under the UNESCO umbrella and to make important networks to assist us as we apply for Waitaki Whitestone to achieve UNESCO Global Geoparks status.”

You can spot Geoff in a UNESCO video about the course on YouTube!