Resource Management Act: RMA Link: Topics: Details

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Topics: Details

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Subject Heritage

Text Archaeological Sites

Recent amendments to the RMA have made the preservation of historic heritage a matter of national importance. This includes archaeological sites.

An archaeological site is any place in New Zealand that either was associated with human activity that occurred before 1900, or is the site of the wreck of any vessel where that wreck occurred before 1900, and may be able to provide evidence relating to the history of New Zealand. A site may be declared to be an archaeological site by notice in the Gazette (HPA section 9(2)).

The primary management of archaeological sites is under the Historic Places Act. This Act requires an archaeological authority to be obtained for any activity that may damage, modify or destroy an archaeological site. This applies in all cases, regardless of whether the site is identified in a district or regional plan.

Significant archaeological sites are usually listed in district plans, but in some areas they are too numerous for all known ones to be listed. Iwi may be reluctant to disclose the exact location of some sites, particularly if they are burial sites. Their position may be kept confidential, with just a general area indicated in planning documents.

Archaeological sites can be protected in reserves, (under the Reserves Act 1977), and managed by local or regional authorities, the Department of Conservation, the Historic Places Trust, or other heritage protection authority. Many sites are on private land, managed according to the provisions of a covenant. Some local authorities provide financial assistance to owners of covenanted sites. A Heritage Protection Order is another option for legal protection.

Disturbance of Sites
If a land use development or activity will affect an archaeological site, options for protection should be considered. It may be possible to plan development to avoid disturbing important areas. If site works unexpectedly uncover archaeological features, work must stop immediately. The NZ Historic Places Trust must be notified, and the site assessed.

If disturbance is unavoidable, an authority to modify (or destroy) must be obtained from the NZ Historic Places Trust. This process often includes consultation with tangata whenua, and will include recording of the site by an archaeological consultant.

National Site Recording Scheme
The New Zealand Archaeological Association manages a Site Recording Scheme for archaeological sites throughout New Zealand, which is accepted as an official register. There are over 55,000 entries. It is also available as a printed handbook (last updated 1999). The register is used by territorial authorities, DOC and the Historic Places Trust as a resource when making decisions about site protection and management. The information in the register is publicly available, but details of Maori burial sites may be kept confidential.



Jones, K. Harlow, D. Gosling, D. (2002) Caring for Archaeological Sites : New Zealand Guidelines. Draft for Discussion, March 2002
DOC Science Miscellaneous Series. 104p
Available on DOC website

Allen, H. (1998) Protecting Historic Places in New Zealand
Department of Anthropology, University of Auckland 73p. ISBN 0958368600
Description: Discussion of issues relating to protection of historic places. Special emphasis on protection of sites culturally significant to Maori.

Goff, J. Nicol, S. and H. Rouse (eds) (2003) The New Zealand Coast - Te Tai o Aotearoa
Dunmore Press 312p ISBN 0-86469-438-5
Chapter 12 Pre-European Archaeology of the Coast p265-296

Ministry of Maori Development (1996) Sites of Significance: A step-by-step guide to protecting sites of cultural, spiritual and historical significance to Maori.
Ministry of Maori Development (Te Puni Kokiri) Wellington. 42p ISBN 0 478 091141

Web-Based Resources

Organisation: NZ Historic Places Trust.
Resources: See Protecting Our Heritage section for material on all aspects of archaeological sites.

Organisation: Site of the NZ Archaeological Association.
Resources: Excellent resources include Association submissions on government policy and legislation, numerous publications including contents of the Associations two journals NZ Journal of Archaeology and Archaeology in New Zealand, a bibliographic database of journal articles, and access to the NZAA Site Recording Scheme database. Also archaeological sites around New Zealand that you can visit.

Resources: See Cultural Heritage section under Key Issues. Summary includes waahi tapu and archaeological sites.

Organisation: Site of the Maritime Archaeological Association of New Zealand.
Resources: Site provides information on the activities of MAANZ. This organization works to promote the identification, recording, protection and preservation of our maritime heritage, including sites, shipwrecks, artefacts.


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