HK Global Geopark of China hosts first roundtable conference (with photos)

     Representatives of more than 20 geoparks and five academic bodies from around the world participated in the Hong Kong Global Geopark of China Roundtable Conference today (October 10) under the theme "Sharing Ideas and Experience".

     The Hong Kong Geopark was accepted as a member of the Global Geoparks Network in September last year. In addition to marking its first anniversary, the conference offers a valuable opportunity for participants to establish networks and to share the latest initiatives and plans relating to geoconservation, geotourism and geoparks.

     The Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation, Mr Alan Wong, addressed the opening ceremony this afternoon. He extended a warm welcome to all participants and wished them a fruitful exchange.

     Three sharing sessions and presentations by six sister geoparks were held at the conference, covering a wide range of topics including visitor-oriented facilities, the global e-classroom, the role of non-governmental organisations in geoconservation, education and volunteer programmes, effective and quality management of geoparks, popularisation of earth science, local participation and private and public partnerships.

     Mr Wong shared Hong Kong's experiences and new initiatives with the participants. "To work towards our goal of sustainability for the geopark, we have been focusing on the key areas of training and development of geopark personnel, public education on geology, local engagement and global geoparks networking," he said.

     To develop the professional competence of the Hong Kong Geopark personnel, they were sent to Germany's Odenwald and the United Kingdom's English Riveria and Marble Arch Caves geoparks to study geopark management, and renowned geologists associated with China's Yandanshan Geopark and the Japan Geoparks Network were invited to come to Hong Kong to assist in staff training and scientific studies.

     A number of innovative education projects will be carried out in the coming year. One project involves publishing electronic books to reach out more effectively to the general public, while another will provide a dynamic, multi-language interpretation system for information boards along the geotrails. The third project, which borrows an idea from Australia's Kanawinka Geopark, involves the setting up of a Volcano Discovery Centre in downtown Sai Kung, which is situated at the gateway to the Hong Kong Geopark. This centre will serve as a convenient starting point for visitors, and tell the story of the volcanoes in ancient Hong Kong and how they have shaped the landscape in the last 100 million years.

     As for local engagement, an accredited geopark guide system was set up together with the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong and the Association for Geoconservation, Hong Kong. This system requires geopark guides to pass a strict assessment, followed by regular re-assessment. This is an unprecedented joint effort among various sectors, including a government department, a non-governmental organisation and an industry association, through which a geopark guide system is set up to ensure quality interpretation and guide services for visitors.

     On global networking, another sister arrangement was signed with the Marble Arch Caves Geopark in May 2012, bringing the total number of Hong Kong's sister geoparks to six. Continuous efforts are made to organise educational and promotional activities in collaboration with the sister geoparks. Since joining the Global Geoparks Network last year, Hong Kong Geopark has conducted a total of five global e-classroom sessions and over 10 training and study visits. Hong Kong Geopark has also actively participated at global geoparks forums, such as the annual meeting of the Global Geoparks of China and the Unzen Global Geoparks Conference, which were held in February and May respectively this year.

     "It is through networking activities like this roundtable conference that we can learn from each other and enhance the quality and impact of our work for the betterment of the geopark movement," Mr Wong added.

     In addition to today's conference, the participants will also visit various geosites and exhibition venues at Hong Kong Geopark over the coming two days to learn more about geopark management and education as well as local engagement programmes.

     Hong Kong Geopark has established sister arrangements with six global geoparks since 2009, namely the Kanawinka Geopark in Australia, the Yandanshan Geopark in China, the Itoigawa Geopark in Japan, the English Riviera Geopark and Marble Arch Caves Geopark in the United Kingdom and the Geopark Bergstrasse-Odenwald in Germany.

Ends/Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Issued at HKT 16:49