Managing a Geopark through an Existing Local Authority Structure
a case study from the Holy Cross Mountains UNESCO Global Geopark, Poland
For the Holy Cross Mountains Geopark in Poland, the Local Authority for Kielce is the responsible body for the Geopark. It is the lead in the “Geoland Świętokrzyski” which has been functioning since 5 October 2015 when a formal cooperation agreement was signed between five local municipalities: Kielce, Chęciny, Morawica, Sitkówka-Nowiny and Piekoszów.
Under the name “Geoland Świętokrzyski”, the Association of Municipalities have a statute, legal personality and is the organisation responsible for managing the Geopark. According to the Polish law, the members of the Association are five local government units, of whom the representatives of the association’s organs are elected: the General Assembly, the Management Board and the Audit Committee. It should be emphasised that under Polish legislation, key decisions and actions of the Association of Municipalities are subject to acceptance by means of resolutions adopted by the Councils of Municipalities, made up of representatives of local communities.
The main tasks of the Association defined in the statute include the planning and execution of public tasks of the Communes consisting of:
- Support for the development of geo-tourism;
- Promotion of geological and cultural heritage;
- Promotion of the entire Geopark area, understood in holistic terms (geology – natural heritage – cultural heritage – local community);
- Mobilising and involving the local community to actively participate in the functioning process and the development of the Geopark;
- Development of cooperation between the Association and the science, business and non-governmental organisations;
- Other public tasks implementation (e.g. protection and conservation of geological, natural and cultural heritage, education, cooperation in local, regional, national and international).
The team the Authority employs sometimes delivers the work programme with a degree of independence from the public body, and have a strong individual identity, though it will always remain accountable to the Local Authority governing body.
Good practice in creating a Geopark governed by a public body (in this context a Local Council) can include:
- Creating a separate committee or ‘arms-length’ partnership and giving it limited decision-making powers for Geopark business (this Committee/Partnership still needs ‘light-touch’ governance documents (e.g. Terms of Reference)
- Encouraging participation from a wide range of sectors – academic, nature conservation, tourism, landowners, arts etc.
- Ensuring a strong Geopark component to the Management Plan or create a separate Geopark Action Plan for the Committee/Partnership to own.