Grant will enhance ‘every aspect’ of geopark

Visitors wander through some of the limestone left by the early formation of New Zealand, at the...
Visitors wander through some of the limestone left by the early formation of New Zealand, at the Waitaki Whitestone Unesco Global Geopark. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
The Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Trust is leaving no rock unturned in its bid to create a "really pukka experience" at its Vanished World Centre.

The Duntroon-based facility has just received $115,000 from the Otago Community Trust to transform the centre into a dynamic educational hub within the Unesco Global Geopark, showcasing the region's unique geological heritage and cultural significance.

Waitaki Whitestone Geopark trustee Helen Jansen said the rock formations in the Waitaki region showed the geological history of the formation of New Zealand as it broke apart from the southern supercontinent Gondwana.

These tectonic processes forced the region’s fossil-rich limestone to the surface, with erosion carving it into sculptured wonders and impressive cliffs.

"The whole of the Waitaki is designated an area of significant geographical interest, based on the fact that we tell the story of the evolution of Zealandia as a continent, through the geology from Palmerston to Ohau."

She said Waitaki landowners teamed up with the late University of Otago palaeontologist Professor Ewan Fordyce in the 1980s to put many of the fossils from the area on display.

Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Trust trustee Mike Gray and student Charlotte Browne look at some of...
Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Trust trustee Mike Gray and student Charlotte Browne look at some of the fossils at the Vanished World Centre in Duntroon.
"They wanted to keep the treasures of their land, in the area.

"They didn’t want them to disappear in to Dunedin and go down into a dark whole in the bottom of the University of Otago basement."

So they created the Vanished World Centre out of an old shop in Duntroon, to display them and tell the history of the fossils and the geology in the area.

"It has large fossils, like entire sharks heads and man-sized dolphins, and there is a room where you can take a piece of fossil-rich rock, and dig out your own fossils.

"And it’s all linked to trails around the whole of the North Otago area, linking the fossils together.

"It also tells the story of the land, the climate and then, what comes to live in that land — what ecosystems have evolved because of that land and climate."

The area was recently recognised as a Unesco global site of interest, so the trust wanted to refurbish the facility to make it more appealing to visitors, she said.

"The centre is 20 years old. It’s very tired, and it needs bringing up to international standards for what people expect to see when they come to a Unesco global geopark.

"It’s going to enhance every aspect of the geopark, the local area and of course, having a really pukka experience when you go in there."

The centre will also be a base for further research on sustainable resource use, climate change mitigation, and natural hazard risk reduction.

"The redeveloped centre will provide the Waitaki Whitestone Unesco Global Geopark with a future-focused facility that provides educational and cultural resources.

"This will support schools, residents and tourists to understand the exciting evolution of the land, both from a cultural perspective and a scientific perspective."

The $115,000 grant was one of many from the Otago Community Trust’s $1,226,281 June grants round.

Other recipients were: Alexandra and Districts Youth Trust ($45,000); Pasifika Central Otago ($1000); Mainland South BMX Assn Inc ($18,000); Balclutha Blessed Box Charitable Trust ($5000); Cromwell Central Otago Hockey Assn ($18,000); Queen’s High School ($10,000); Amputee Society of Otago & Southland Inc ($500); Friends of Burns Reserve Trust ($1000); Macandrew Bay Boating Club Inc ($4300); Music4Us Puoro Mō Taatou Music Education Trust ($4300); Saturday Morning Music Classes (Dunedin) Soc Inc ($1095); Northern Junior Association Football Club Inc ($2000); Football South ($60,300); Otago Cricket Assn Inc ($60,500); Otago Touch Assn Inc ($40,000); Otago Badminton Assn Inc ($16,500); Otago Hockey Assn (1990) Inc ($30,000); Otago Rugby League Inc ($30,000); Volleyball Otago ($20,000); Otago Rugby Football Union Inc ($70,000); Athletics Otago Inc ($26,000); Sport Otago ($175,750); Dunedin Ice Skating Club Inc ($15,000); Otago Secondary Schools Sports Assn ($30,000); Parafed Otago ($25,000); Otago Rowing Association Inc ($30,000); Tennis Otago Inc ($15,000); Basketball Otago Inc ($60,000); Otago Table Tennis Assn Inc ($5000); Mosgiel Piping and Dancing Society ($3000); Oamaru Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Trust ($115,000); Oamaru Poultry Pigeon & Canary Society ($600); North Otago Rugby Football Union Inc ($25,000); Otago The Work Opportunities Trust ($9,000); Otago Outdoor Education Trust ($8000); NZ Special Olympics Lower South Island Regional Council ($5000); Special Olympics New Zealand ($20,000); Netball South Zone Inc ($54,000); Golf Otago Inc ($30,000); Gymnastics New Zealand ($10,000); Squash Otago Inc ($25,000); Otago Softball Assn Inc ($10,000); Otago Academy of Sport Charitable Trust ($35,000); Wānaka Search and Rescue Inc ($11,436); Merino Muster Ltd ($6000); Snow Sports NZ Inc ($40,000).