Being unsure of a site’s history or age could be costly

//Being unsure of a site’s history or age could be costly

Being unsure of a site’s history or age could be costly

Principal Archaeologist Benjamin Teele points out what several changes to heritage law could mean for you.

The Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 replaced the older Historic Places Act 1993, and along with several changes to the law also saw a name change from New Zealand Historic Places Trust to Heritage New Zealand. Legislation under this Act makes it unlawful for any person to destroy, damage, or modify the whole or any part of an archaeological site without the prior authority of Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga (HNZPT). This is the case regardless of whether the land on which the site is located is a designated historic place, or the activity is permitted under the District or Regional Plan, or a resource or building consent has been granted.

There is a difference between heritage, which is dealt with under the RMA, and archaeology, dealt with by the HNZPT Act 2014. Some buildings may have identified heritage values, but not archaeological ones. Some may have archaeological values, but no identified heritage values. Some may have both. In archaeological matters, the HNZPT Act takes precedent over the RMA.

The HNZPT Act 2014 requires that any site which has evidence of pre-1900 human habitation must be the subject of investigation and assessment of its potential archaeological values prior to any disturbance of the site. This must be followed by an Application to HNZPT for an Archaeological Authority.

HNZPT must review the application and must issue or decline the application within 20 working days. There is no fee for this application.

HNZPT may apply special conditions to the Authority but the Authority will usually include the need for monitoring of any earthworks on the site, the recording of any pre-1900 building (if present), and the preparation of an Interim and a Final Report to the HNZPT which sets out the findings of the archaeologist on site. There can be severe penalties for damaging or destroying an archaeological site. The modification or destruction of an archaeological site by any person knowingly carries a fine up to $150,000 and is a criminal offence under the Act (Section 87).

If working on a historic site and you are unsure of its age, contact the regional office for HNZPT. Their details are available on their website, and the regional archaeologist will be able to help with determinations of a building or sites age and whether there are any archaeological considerations.

Benjamin Teele is a building surveyor and Principal Archaeologist at Origin Consultants in Arrowtown.