UNESCO Global Geoparks Programme

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.

What is the Global Geoparks Programme?

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.

How does a geopark operate?

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:

  • school programmes
  • guided walks
  • museum exhibitions
  • geological heritage protection and promotional activities
  • socio-economic activities to encourage sustainable regional development.

Natural Science Commissioner Geoff Hicks shares more information on Geoparks:

Why become a UNESCO Geopark?

UNESCO Global Geoparks offer opportunities to:

  • raise awareness of the importance of the area’s geological heritage in history and society today
  • give local people a sense of pride in their region and strengthen their identification with the area
  • stimulate the creation of innovative local enterprises, new jobs and high quality training courses as new sources of revenue are generated through sustainable geotourism
  • protect geological resources of the area.

Successful applicants will automatically become part of the Global Geoparks Network. Its objectives are to:

  • promote the equitable geographical establishment, development and professional management of Global Geoparks
  • advance knowledge and understanding of the nature, function and role of Global Geoparks assist local communities to value their natural and cultural heritage
  • preserve Earth heritage for present and future generations
  • educate and teach the broad public about issues in geo-sciences and their relation with environmental matters, climate change and natural hazards
  • ensure sustainable socio-economic and cultural development on the natural (or geological) system
  • foster multi-cultural links between heritage and conservation and the maintenance of geological and cultural diversity, using participatory schemes of partnership and management
  • stimulate research when appropriate
  • promote joint initiatives between Global Geoparks (e.g. communication, publications, exchange of information, twinning).

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.

How we support nominations for UNESCO Geopark Status

New Zealand applications for UNESCO Global Geopark status must be endorsed by the National Commission. UNESCO is currently considering Waitaki Whitestone Aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark’s application dossier and it is expected that an assessment visit will take place when COVID-19 restrictions allow. The National Commission is not accepting nominations until after Waitaki Whitestone has completed the process.

Applying to become a UNESCO Geopark in Aotearoa New Zealand

Every two years the National Commission may nominate up to two outstanding New Zealand sites and landscapes for UNESCO Global Geoparks status. Expressions of Interest will open up again in 2022.

When submitting an Expression of Interest applicants must answer a number of questions about their proposed geopark site, backed up by evidence, examples and endorsements. They need to explain why their site is of national and international significance and offer current and proposed examples of community engagement and management. In the next phase, preferred candidates will be required to develop a comprehensive business plan.

If your proposed Global Geopark is recommended by the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO, 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.

Still have questions? See UNESCO’s website for FAQs on the Global Geoparks programme or email us.

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UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs programme
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