Area’s stories at core of geopark strategy

The Waitaki Whitestone Geopark is going through a new formation.
In September, the geopark trust announced a new strategic plan, and with it the appointment of Lisa Heinz as manager.
Replacing Gerard Quinn, Ms Heinz, formerly the geopark co-ordinator, said she was ‘‘quite excited for what’s coming next’’.
Rather than focusing on attracting tourists en masse, the geopark was shifting its attention to community development and telling stories that were 

connected to the land, working in partnership with Te Runanga o Moeraki.

‘I think Covid kind of helped us make that shift,’’ Ms Heinz said.
‘‘We had such a strong visitor-tourism focus on the geopark being something that pulls people here, but actually we had to do it the other way around.’’
By focusing on community development, the geopark would attract the right sort of visitors, rather than as many as it could.
‘‘I’m a strong believer that you need a product that is attractive to the visitors you would like to see, and hopefully the geopark can be one of those products.’’
Ms Heinz had always been interested in sustainable tourism and how it could add value to a place.
To her, there needed to be a balance between protection, education, and development, while finding a way to ‘‘protect the place’’ but making it accessible — and geoparks could do that.
She was neither a geologist nor a storyteller, instead coming from a tourism background.
In fact, it was what led her to Oamaru.
Ms Heinz first came to New Zealand from Germany in 2016 to complete a semester abroad at the University of Otago.
After returning home and finishing her tourism management degree, she returned to Dunedin in 2018 to complete a master’s in tourism with a focus on sustainable practices.
She did this part-time while interning at Tourism Waitaki. It was during her internship that she discovered what a geopark was, and she started volunteering for the trust.
After completing her master’s, Ms Heinz and her partner Conor Lawrence, whom she met in Dunedin, moved to Oamaru — his hometown.
‘‘We always wanted to come back after we both finished study and somehow that worked out.’’
She liked living in Waitaki, and was enjoying learning more about it every day as part of her job.
She particularly loved the stories about how the district was shaped and believed they could be amplified through the geopark.



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