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Piece of history . . . Vanished World committee member John Hore alongside a large fossil at Vanished World in Duntroon. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

Duntroon is well known for its geological history. Many examples can be found on the property of John Hore,who has been involved with the township’s Vanished World Centre since its inception. Reporter Daniel Birchfield speaks to him about the centre’s bid to earn international geopark status.

Establishing Duntroon’s Vanished World Centre and the wider area as a self-sustainable entity that offers the best possible geological tourism experience is a goal for John Hore.

Mr Hore is a committee member of Vanished World, formed in 2000 to promote understanding of fossils and the wider geology of the Waitaki district.

The group recently launched the Whitestone Geopark Project, a bid to have Duntroon and other areas in the Waitaki officially recognised as an international geopark.

To be considered for geopark status, an area has to be officially recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

It defines a geopark 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”.

Vanished World is in the process of putting together an application to be assessed by the New Zealand National Commission for Unesco, and (hopefully) signed off by Unesco’s international arm in Paris.

Mr Hore, who was chairman of Vanished World for nine years until this year, is determined to see the bid succeed.

If it was not for the discovery of ancient whale, dolphin and shell fossils on his property and his willingness to share them with the public, it is likely he would never have become involved with the organisation.

“We have all of these fossils on the property and that’s the main reason I got involved.

“We were asked if we would allow the public to access the property, if it could be suitably developed. It’s only 150m off the road, so it was a good site to develop.

“We’ve got two fossils sites that date back millions of years and also access to Elephant Rocks, which has been a very popular area.”

Mr Hore was right behind the geopark concept, which he believed was the logical next step for Vanished World.

“I think it’s probably a natural progression for Vanished World in growing into the business we’ve been trying to be for 17 years and have not had success in making completely self-sufficient, as it were.

“With the geopark concept, we have got a chance to become a self-sufficient business.

“We are hopeful the geopark will happen and bring more people to our area and then we, as volunteers, may be able to step back a bit more from the work we’ve put in over the years and see the business grow a bit more.”

He also said it was an opportunity for Vanished World to work with other organisations, such as Tourism Waitaki, for the benefit of the Duntroon area.

“I can see all the different entities working together to bring more people down through the valley.”

Mr Hore believed the benefits of a geopark would be wide-ranging, from bringing more people to Duntroon to the development of infrastructure and the establishment of new businesses.

“We’re trying to attract more and more cyclists using the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail to Vanished World, but a lot go straight through.

“People can learn a little bit more about the geology around the area of Duntroon when they are passing through. The track runs right along the top of a road where you can look at North Otago’s major valleys.

“It’s a very picturesque ride when you get to the top of the hill.”

Overall, he was pleased with how Vanished World had performed of late.

“It’s gone much the same as last year, which was a good year for us. We are ahead in sales which is good, so we are still growing.”

He said some Vanished World volunteers had moved on after several years of service, while new ones had come on board to replace them. There were about a dozen on hand to run the centre.

Vanished World was working with the Waitaki District Council, Maori representatives and landowners on the geopark project.