The Waitaki Whitestone Geopark has a new strategic plan for a new direction.

The Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Trust recently launched the new plan, shifting its gaze from international visitors to education, geo-conservation and a focus on local and indigenous knowledge and histories.

Recently appointed trust chairman Ross McRobie said while the geopark was still pursuing a Unesco global geopark accreditation, its approach to visitor engagement would centre on awareness, advocacy and community education.

The trust wanted to reach the wider community and by highlighting the district’s natural and cultural assets, the environment could be better protected, Mr McRobie said.

“The geopark is still a mystery to some people,” he said.

The trust would work with iwi to bring the whole community together and tell the “stories of the land and its people” through its cultural interpretation of the geopark, Mr McRobie said.

“We don’t want to be working in silos, we want to be working together.

“It’s a partnership and it needs to be.”

In addition to the new strategic plan, the trust and Te Runanga o Moeraki worked very closely to establish a new logo for the park that highlighted the mauka ahuru (sheltering mountains), the wai (river and sea), the whenua (fossil-rich limestone) and the tangata (people).

Trustee and Moeraki Ltd chairman Trevor McGlinchey said Moeraki representatives were very much involved and thought it was important the logo represented a Ngai Tahu cultural perspective.

Mr McGlinchey said the geopark’s new approach acknowledged that the whenua (land) could be interpreted in more than Western, scientific ways. There could be a deep cultural grounding as well.

“We are happy that the geopark is embracing a more culturally appropriate way of interpreting the whenua in Waitaki,” Mr McGlinchey said.

By the geopark helping to build that cultural basis, it added a huge value to how people understood Waitaki landscapes, waterways and seas, creating a greater sense of attachment for locals and visitors, he said.

Ngai Tahu whanau identified culturally with the land. Their primary mountain and river was Aoraki/Mt Cook and the Waitaki River, he said.

“That’s how we identify ourselves, and in that context we see our tipuna [ancestors] – we see natural features as the personification of our tipuna.”

“We see ourselves as intrinsically associated with the whenua.”

This association was “ancient and ongoing”, he said, and would now contextualise the geopark.

Three new appointments were made.

Former member of parliament Brett Hudson, of Dunedin, became a trustee, former Genesis Energy chief executive Albert Brantley an advisory trustee and geopark co-ordinator Lisa Heinz would take over as manager when Gerard Quinn left the role this month.