UNESCO Global Geoparks programme

UNESCO Geoparks

The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO is establishing a UNESCO Global Geoparks programme 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.

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.

Geoparks adopt a holistic approach to their heritage and promote all aspects of their region’s natural and cultural heritage.

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Programme benefits

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.

Application process

Each year two years the National Commission may nominate up to two outstanding New Zealand sites and landscapes for UNESCO Global Geoparks status.

Anticipated milestones in the inaugural application round are:

  • Submit Expression of Interest – 30 April 2018
  • Short-listed candidate/s identified and informed – 30 May 2018
  • Short-listed candidate/s submit Letter of Intent – 1 July 2018
  • Short-listed candidate/s develop full dossier with support from Geoparks Expert Advisory Panel – 30 November 2018
  • UNESCO Desktop evaluation completed – 30 April 2019
  • Evaluators visit proposed geopark – From 1 May 2019


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. To learn more about requirements, see the below documents:

Application dossier

Self-evaluation form 

Expert Advisory Panel members

The UNESCO Global Geoparks Expert Advisory Panel (EAP) is a working group that has been established to encourage and support New Zealand nominations for UNESCO Global Geopark status.

Members are:

Dr Geoff Hicks (Chair) – Natural Sciences Commissioner, New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO

Materoa Dodd – Social Sciences Commissioner, New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO

Dr Hamish Campbell – Senior Geologist, Geological and Nuclear Sciences

Dr Bruce Hayward – GeoMarine Consultant and Convenor of the New Zealand Geopreservation Inventory

David Bamford – Specialist and Consultant in tourism management, parks and recreation planning and small business development

Holden Hohaia – General Manager Māori Development, Landcare Research


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.

There will also be additional non-compulsory opportunities, such as the International Geopark Conference, workshops and capacity building courses.

How to apply

The selection process for Global Geoparks status is rigorous. In the first instance, we invite you to send us an Expression of Interest to demonstrate your proposed site’s suitability.

Download the Expression of Interest form

More information

Still have questions? See UNESCO’s website for FAQ on the Global Geoparks programme or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..