Hope geotrails will encourage regional co-operation

The Moeraki Boulders, south of Oamaru, are one of 43 identified ‘‘geosites’’ in the Waitaki...
The Moeraki Boulders, south of Oamaru, are one of 43 identified ‘‘geosites’’ in the Waitaki district. PHOTOS: HAMISH MACLEAN
How tourism operators "integrate with each other", how they communicate, and the networks they form in the Waitaki district could form a recipe for other regions to follow as geoparks spread around New Zealand.

The Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Trust is bidding to create the first Unesco Global Geopark in the country - and now a Lincoln University research project has begun to understand "whether the development of the geopark enhances or improves those networks and makes them more able to develop a successful tourism industry", the university's Dr Helen Fitt said.

As the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Trust tries to establish links between geological education,...
As the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Trust tries to establish links between geological education, local gastronomy, attractions, and transport — as ‘‘geotrails’’ - a Lincoln University researcher, Dr Helen Fitt, has begun to study the relationships among tourism operators in the area. PHOTO: HAMISH MACLEAN
"I would like to think that through trying to bring people together to work on a shared goal that people will work more effectively together, but whether that happens or not does remain to be seen," Dr Fitt said.

"This is about how tourism operators interrelate but one of the features about `geotrails' is that they tend to link more than one activity or attraction, or way of getting around the area, which necessitates interactions between those different operators.

"Geotrails may be a mechanism for encouraging people to work more closely together."

Unesco describes Global Geoparks as "single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development", however the trust indicates geotrails are a feature of geoparks elsewhere.

In a statement this week, the trust notes in Germany a geotrail mixes wine tourism with educational activities around geology and soils, and a geotrail in Austria combines whitewater rafting with education on glacial processes and formation of the local landscape.

In Waitaki, the area's food and wine has been highlighted, and work has begun on a "geogastronomy trail", the trust says.

Dr Fitt, whose work is the first done after a memorandum of understanding between the trust and the university was signed, researches transport, tourism and geography.

And Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher, who is also the trust's chairman, said one of the strengths of the proposed 43-geosite geopark is the area, roughly the entire Waitaki district, the sites are spread across.

"It just means that people do have to travel around the district - and obviously that helps spread the benefit," Mr Kircher said.

"For a good length of time now it's been - OK, we've identified 43 geosites, how do we link them, how do people get from one to the other, what are the opportunities?"

The existing Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail linked "quite a few" geosites "and so that's an obvious way of getting around", he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Kircher announced this week Gloria Hurst had vacated her position as trustee.

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