12 December 2016 - Two Australian pre-aspiring UNESCO global geoparks announced at international conference
The Geotourism Standing Committee was well represented by three members at the biennial Global Geoparks Network conference (GGN 2016) held at Torquay in the English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark in September. This event has provided the opportunity to announce two Australian ‘Pre-Aspiring’ UNESCO Global Geoparks, specifically one project embracing the Warrumbungles in the Orana Region of New South Wales, and the other embracing the Etheridge area of Far North Queensland – known as ‘The Golden Heart of the Gulf’.
The presentations to GGN 2016 from the Australian delegates can be accessed at http://www.leisuresolutions.com.au/index.php/geotourism-industry-groups/
These major geotourism projects are being driven by local government with the support of Regional Development Australia with steering committees being established to coordinate the work that needs to be undertaken to formally lodge nominations through the auspices of the Australian Government, at which stage these projects will be able to formally graduate to ‘Aspiring’ UNESCO Global Geopark Status. It is expected that the entire preparation, nomination and decision making process may take up to three years to complete. The Standing Committee is in the process of establishing various technical reference groups to provide expertise in areas of geoscience, geoheritage and mineral heritage; in the latter case, for the Etheridge project, with an eye on mining heritage, representatives of the North Queensland and Far North Queensland branches of The AusIMM and the Queensland Museum have so far expressed strong interest. For both projects, it is anticipated that representatives of the two state Geological Surveys and the National Park Services will also be closely engaged in the nomination process.
The Pre-Aspiring Etheridge Global Geopark embraces the Etheridge Province of the North Australian Craton as described by Ian Withnall and Leonard Cranfield in their 2013 paper. They have explained that rocks of the Forsayth Subprovince crop out in the Georgetown area and constitute a metasedimentary sequence deposited in an intracratonic rift setting with two major Proterozoic folding events affecting the rocks of the Forsayth Subprovince, and that at least four additional episodes of folding have also been recognised. They have also recorded that the rocks of the Forsayth Subprovince host important gold mineralisation that includes the Etheridge Goldfield, the most significant of which is located at the former Kidston mine; this mineralisation is probably genetically related to Siluro-Devonian and Permo-Carboniferous intrusives of the Pama and Kennedy Provinces. Small, massive, stratabound concentrations of iron and base metal sulphides are known from the base of the Etheridge Group within the Forsayth Subprovince. The Etheridge Province also include significant occurrences of gemstones, notably agates and topaz, as well as hot springs attractions.
Two geological events in the Cainozoic now feature as iconic geotourism attractions in the region, the most significant of which is the Undara Lava Tube system, truly unique in the world based on consideration of age, preservation and lineal extent, as well as the geomorphological expressions within flat-lying sediments at Cobbold Gorge. Both of these landforms, as well as the other Proterozoic and Paleozoic landforms in the area proposed for the Global Geopark, have resulted in a diverse range of landforms with unique biodiversity characteristics including a rich assemblage of birdlife. Committed input from the Ewamian Aboriginal community is sure to identify sites exhibiting rich indigenous culture.
The Etheridge geotourism project (strongly championed by the Shire Mayor Warren Devlin and Chief Executive Michael Kitzelmann) is being coordinated from the Shire Council office in the township of Georgetown, located on the Savannah Way, west of the localities of Mt Garnet and Mt Surprise. In October, Etheridge Council unveiled the world’s first Peace Monument represented by a substantive rock sculpture garden adorned with plaques recognising seven global peace leaders including three Australians, Eddie Mabo, Helen Caldicott and Julian Burnside. This cultural project is also strongly supported by the Mayor who includes gold mining as part of his various business interests.
Members with an interest in contributing to any of the projects mentioned in this article are invited to contact the Geotourism Standing Committee at email: firstname.lastname@example.org
27 June 2016 - Australia-China memorandum of cooperation to drive geotourism in Australia
A significant collaboration arrangement with the Chinese geoscience community was signed today at the biennial 2016 Australian Earth Sciences Convention. Following the keynote address at the Geotourism session delivered by Professor Patrick McKeever representing UNESCO, Dr Graham Carr, President of the Geological Society of Australia, and Professor Anze Chen, a distinguished executive member of the Geological Society of China, committed their organisations to closer cooperation in promoting and advancing geotourism.
Dr Carr said, “Geotourism is an emerging global phenomenon which fosters tourism based upon landscapes and geology. China is a major global player in geotourism with over 320 provincial areas set aside for this purpose in China, among which 200 have already gained national status.” He added, “with 33 of these areas (known as geoparks) having acquired global status, China manages by far the largest number of global geoparks in the world”.
Dr Carr also said that he was aware that China has at least 10 major geoparks and five academic institutes interested in collaborating through ‘sister park’ relationships with Australian counterparts which could currently include national parks and reserves (in Australia), Australian national landscapes regions, and areas on the World Heritage List.
The Memorandum of Co-operation will be focused on growing and enhancing the level of best practice nature-based tourism in both China and Australia. Dr Carr said that he hoped that the two associations could explore opportunities to promote geotourism through various mechanisms, thus raising the profile of China and Australia as world-leading nature-based tourism destinations in the process.
With the huge number of Chinese visitors travelling to geotourism destinations in China, Dr Carr said that he hoped that a focus on Australia would translate into these travellers moving outside of capital cities and coastal areas and extending their visits into Australia’s iconic landscape areas, largely located in Australia’s inland regions.
“From the Society’s perspective, a new focus on expanding geotourism in Australia will open up employment opportunities for its members in the Australian nature-based tourism industry and in natural resource management agencies”, Dr Carr said.
Angus M Robinson
Chairman, Geotourism Standing Committee
Geological Society of Australia
0418 488 340
7 July 2016 - Volcanic Warrumbungle region touted as ideal site for Australia's only UNESCO-approved geopark, ABC Radio. Click here to read further.
5 April 2013 - GSA Geotourism Sub Committee Chair, Angus M Robinson discussed latest geotourism developments in NSW on ABC Radio statewide. Click here to listen.
12 January 2013 - Dr David Branagan of the GSA discusses geological highlights around Sydney on Breakfast, 702 ABC Sydney. Click here to listen. Click here to listen.
5 January 2013 - GSA Geotourism Sub Committee Chair, Angus M Robinson and Stephen Meehan of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Group discuss geotourism and geoheritage in NSW on Breakfast, 702 ABC Sydney. Click here to listen.