Archaeological Sites


  • Information on the protection of archaeological sites is available on the Heritage New Zealand website.
  • Heritage New Zealand has statutory responsibilities for archaeological sites under the Heritage NZ Pouhere Taonga Act 2014. The Act defines an archaeological site as a place associated with pre-1900 human activity, where there may be evidence relating to the history of New Zealand. A place associated with post-1900 human activity may be declaredby publication in the Gazette, as an archaeological site under the Act.
  • Modification or destruction of an archaeological site requires an archaeological authority under the Heritage NZ Pouhere Taonga Act 2014. However, an archaeological authority is not required for work on buildings that are archaeological sites unless the work will result in the demolition of the whole building. If in doubt, check with Heritage New Zealand.
  • While all archaeological sites are protected under the Heritage NZ Pouhere Taonga Act 2014, local authorities have management responsibility for the use of land under the RMA. Archaeological values are also part of the definition of historic heritage.
  • The requirements of the Heritage NZ Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 and the RMA means that local authorities and Heritage New Zealand need to work together to avoid confusion and unnecessary regulatory duplication.
  • While archaeological sites (including previously unrecorded sites) are managed under the Heritage NZ Pouhere Taonga Act 2014, district plans have a role in protecting the most significant archaeological sites (including groups of significant archaeological sites).
  • As for any heritage place, archaeological sites scheduled in district plans must be identified with geographical boundaries (which incorporate the need for any buffer areas), legal description and statement of significance. Large lists of recorded archaeological sites with little ‘ground truthing’, analysis or justification should not be included in district plans. Accurate identification and statements of significance should be undertaken by a professional archaeologist.
  • The New Zealand Archaeological Association (NZAA) Archsite database is the national database of recorded archaeological sites. Local authorities can work with NZAA to ensure information on recorded archaeological sites is updated. Work will also be necessary to determine the spatial extent of archaeological sites for district plan listing purposes.
  • Following the accurate identification of archaeological sites (including the extent of archaeological sites), local authorities should use project information memorandums and land information memorandums to ensure landowners are informed about the presence of the sites.
  • Include methods for archaeological site management in the plan in the appropriate form to match the level of information available. Where the information available is not detailed enough to prescribe regulation, use alternative methods to address RMA responsibilities. Such methods include non-statutory databases, mapping, and raising landowners' awareness.
  • Promote consistency in terminology and definitions used. For example, if the definition 'archaeological site' is used in the plan; it should be identical to the definition. When managing the resource consent process and applications for archaeological sites, consider the following:
    • Develop a protocol with Heritage NZ Pouhere Taonga for any parallel approval processes relating to RMA resource consents and applications for archaeological authorities under the Heritage NZ Pouhere Taonga Act 2014. Include this protocol in the district and/or regional plan as an information note or method for reference.
    • Recognise Heritage New Zealand as an affected party in the district and/or regional plan processes with respect to archaeological sites.
    • Cross reference archaeological sites related provisions in the plan to earthworks provisions and rules in the district and/or regional plan.
    • An application to Heritage New Zealand for an archaeological authority will often involve the preparation of an archaeological assessment. These assessments can also be used as part of resource consent applications if relevant.
    • Refer to guidance and/or protocols for accidental discovery in the district and/or regional plan. Apply accidental discovery protocol advice notes to resource consents that may affect an archaeological site. Heritage New Zealand can advise on the most appropriate wording.
    • Include specific assessment criteria to help evaluate the effects of activities on archaeological sites.
    • Develop protocols with tangata whenua for archaeological sites identified as also of significance to them.
    • Ensure staff know what archaeological sites are, have guidelines for how to identify them, and know where they are likely to be found.


Resource consent information requirements

State information requirements for resource consent applications that involve or may impact on heritage places. Include:

  • A clear definition of the location of heritage places relative to the activity;
  • Assessment of effects on heritage values with reference to plan assessment criteria;
  • An archaeological assessment for archaeological sites;
  • Cultural values effects assessment documentation by tangata whenua for activities that relate to Māori heritage; and
  • Ensure that Heritage New Zealand is consulted as an affected party.