Celebrating Aotearoa’s first UNESCO Global Geopark.

In late May the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO Commissioners, Chair and Secretariat headed down to Ōamaru to officially celebrate Aotearoa New Zealand’s first UNESCO Global Geopark – Waitaki Whitestone.

Celebrating the UNESCO designation.

The day provided an opportunity to celebrate those that have been part of the Waitaki Geopark journey for over 20 years and to acknowledge the work of the many volunteers and community groups as well as the support of the many organisations without which the UNESCO designation would not have been possible.

The day began with speeches, followed by lunch and a guided tour of the Geopark in the afternoon.

Our Chair Liz Longworth was among the speakers, which also included Helen Jansen, Chair Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Trust; Gary Kircher, Mayor for Waitaki; and the Hon Peeni Henare, Minister of Tourism.

Liz Longworth

A beautiful and inspiring occasion.

Below our Commissioners share their experiences of the celebrations and the impression that Waitaki Whitestone UNESCO Global Geopark left on them.

“It was definitely our privilege to share this achievement with the totally committed band of community pioneers who have worked so long to realise this dream and, the younger converts who are growing the vision. Malo Aupito Ōamaru. A totally beautiful and inspiring occasion,” said Social Sciences Commissioner, Emeritus Professor Tagaloatele Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop.

Our Commissioners with the speakers.

"Totally inspired by the Waitaki Whitestone UNESCO Geopark - the first of its kind in Australasia and an amazing exemplar reconnecting community to their phenomenal landscapes full of nature, culture and history."

“In the words of the Hon. Peeni Henare, Minister for Tourism, people come to Aotearoa New Zealand to see nature and hear culture. He uttered those words at the launch of the Waitaki Whitestone UNESCO Geopark - a wonderful example of stunning and unique landscapes, etched by the history and cultures of its inhabitants across time.”

"Totally humbled by the diversity, generosity, energy and vibrance of the landscapes and people of the newly launched Waitaki Whitestone UNESCO Geopark,” said Natural Science Commissioner Linda Faulkner.

Linda at Matakaea/Shag Point with Charlotte Boyt, People & Environment Manager, Te Rūnanga o Moeraki.

“Imagine visiting a place that weaves the past, the present and the future into a compelling story. Waitaki Whitestone Geopark is one such place -- a rich geological, natural and cultural past, a tapestry of thriving community activity in an awe-inspiring landscape, and a lesson to us all about how to be kaitiaki of the future,” said Education Commissioner, Professor Carol Mutch.

Carol with Secretary General, Zuleika Chang

“The Waitaki Whitestone UNESCO Geopark is the complete experience – spectacular vistas, awesome geological phenomena, rich cultures. It affords the very rare opportunity to see amazing things through different eyes – adroitly blending science and culture to create the richest of experiences,” said Culture Commissioner, Dr Dan Hikuroa.

Dan with Communication and Information Commissioner, Vanisa Dhiru.

Reflecting on her Waitaki Whitestone Geopark experience Chair Liz Longworth said:

“What I found fascinating was the interweaving of the stories and legends of tangata whenua with the history of the land and each geological feature. That gave special meaning to the significance of what we were seeing and hearing.”

David Higgins, Upoko, Te Rūnanga o Moeraki, provides the history of the land.

“I had no idea this region is a paleontologist’s dream. Our own Jurassic Park in fossils! Stories of giant creatures that roamed and amazing rock formations."

“Waitaki Whitestone UNESCO Global Geopark offers a model for sustainable tourism, grounded in education, steeped in cultural heritage, and driven by the local community.”

“Waitaki Whitestone Geopark demonstrates what is possible when passionate people come together in a community of locals with a vision, Iwi who are willing to share their knowledge and traditions, scientists who persevere, a district council actively backing a vision, and disparate supporters and funders prepared to step up and make it happen.”

“We hope other parts of Aotearoa New Zealand will be inspired by Waitaki Whitestone Geopark and will look to follow in its footsteps,” concluded Liz.

Linda, Carol, Vanisa, Dan and Peggy.

More information on Aotearoa New Zealand's UNESCO Global Geoparks programme can be found here.

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