Geoparks are geographical areas with geology of outstanding value. Geoparks are community owned and open to everyone. They take a community-led approach to protecting and promoting the very best of our geology.
A UNESCO Global Geoparks Programme has been established in New Zealand.
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.
In May 2023 Waitaki Whitestone Geopark was officially endorsed as Aotearoa New Zealand’s first UNESCO accredited Global Geopark.
The UNESCO Global Geopark designation recognises Waitaki Whitestone Geopark's outstanding geological and cultural heritage and its commitment to sustainable development, education, and community engagement.
Waitaki Whitestone’s journey towards becoming Aotearoa New Zealand’s first UNESCO Global Geopark began in 2018, shortly after the UNESCO Global Geopark programme was established in Aotearoa New Zealand. Learn more about Waitaki Whitestone’s UNESCO journey here: Our UNESCO Story | Waitaki Whitestone Geopark.
Located in Te Waipounamu, the South Island of New Zealand, the Waitaki Whitestone UNESCO Global Geopark covers an area of over 7,200 square kilometres and is renowned for its diverse and spectacular geological features, including limestone cliffs, glacial valleys, and ancient marine fossils.
Learn more about Waitaki Whitestone UNESCO Global Geopark here: Waitaki Whitestone Geopark | Aotearoa New Zealand.
Geoparks promote all aspects of their region’s natural and cultural heritage.
Activities that can be considered typical of a Geopark are mostly geotourism or educational based. These include:
Former Natural Science Commissioner Geoff Hicks shares more information on Geoparks:
UNESCO Global Geoparks offer opportunities to:
Successful applicants will automatically become part of the Global Geoparks Network. Its objectives are to:
Members of the Network are entitled to use the registered ‘UNESCO Global Geopark’ brand as a mark of quality. Members benefit from the use of common promotional tools and have a forum for finding new partners for international cooperation, exchange of experience and for seeking funding.
Expressions of Interest for New Zealand sites are expected to open again in 2024.
In submitting an Expression of Interest applicants must answer questions about their proposed geopark site, backed up by evidence, examples and endorsements.
You will need to explain why your site is of national and international significance and offer current and proposed examples of community engagement and management.
If your Expression of Interest is successful, you will then be required to develop a full dossier.
The National Commission for UNESCO may nominate up to two New Zealand sites and landscapes per year.
If your proposed Global Geopark is recommended by the National Commission, your institution must cover the cost of travelling and accommodation for two experts from Europe who will undertake a field evaluation. Sites are re-evaluated every four years.
Successful applicants are required to join the Global Geoparks Network. The annual membership fee is approximately €1500, which includes an annual contribution to UNESCO.
The Global Geoparks Network General assembly meets every two years (parallel to the International Geoparks Conference) and participation by a representative from each geopark at all meetings is obligatory.