Some of New Zealand's most famous geological landmarks will receive heritage protection under a new Unesco initiative launched this morning.
A Global Geoparks programme has been established to allow communities to gain global recognition for areas of geological significance.
Areas such as the new Kaikōura coastline, Banks Peninsula and the Southern Alps could be in line for greater recognition.
Unesco spokesperson Dr Geoff Hicks said up to two sites could receive the designation each year, and bids for this year were open until 30 April.
Dr Hicks said geopark sites elsewhere in the world had seen tourist numbers grow by thousands.
"The number of people coming through, it's pretty obvious they're going to be spending money on food, accommodation, transport and so on. The bulk of that funding goes back to the region."
Dr Hicks said the designation opens up a range of economic opportunities for successful communities.
The full application process, including assessment by Unesco, can take a number of years.
There are currently 127 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 35 countries.
Further information about the application process can be found here.