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Protecting our precious places

Archaeological sites - protecting with QEII covenants

Archaeological sites are irreplaceable parts of our heritage. Private landowners can play an important role by protecting them with QEII open space covenants.

What is an archaeological site?

Pits in Hawke's Bay protected by a QEII covenantThe Historic Places Act 1993 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.

While some sites are easily recognised, others may be hidden underground or beneath vegetation.

What types of archaeological sites are there?

Archaeological sites can include:

  • Maori pa sites – fortified places with banks and ditches, often found on cliffs, headlands or ridges.
  • Cultivation areas and gardens – the remains can be seen in soils and from lines or walls of loose stones or stone mounds. Other types of site associated with cultivation and settlement include artificially levelled terraces, and pits used for storing kumara.
  • Middens – former rubbish dumps that may contain shells, bones, artefacts, charcoal, and sometimes oven stones.
  • Rock art – such as paintings, drawings, carvings or engravings.
  • Shipwrecks
  • Other historic sites contain evidence of whaling, trading and gold mining, or the remains of mission stations, military redoubts, buildings and structures.

How can archaeological sites be looked after?

Simple land management measures can make a big difference to preserving archaeological sites.

In most rural situations, for instance, grass grazed by sheep generally gives the best protection as regular trampling by heavier animals such as cattle, deer and horses can erode the site.

If possible, large plants and vines should be prevented from developing as their roots can damage the site and then damage it further when removed, harvested or blown over.

Some landowners choose to give added protection to their archaeological sites, even though such sites are protected under the Historic Places Act 1993.

A QEII covenant is one way to protect an archaeological site in perpetuity.

This ensures that subsequent owners will be aware of both the location and significance when they purchase the site and their role in looking after it.

Maori rock art in a QEII covenant

Above: Maori rock art protected by a QEII covenant near Timaru.

What protection does the law give archaeological sites?

The Historic Places Act 1993 makes it unlawful for any person to destroy, damage or modify the whole or any part of an archaeological site, whether or not the land on which the site is located is designated, or a resource or building consent has been issued, without the prior authority of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

If there is a chance you may damage a site, you must apply to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust for permission to do so. This Trust can advise you of the most suitable course of action.

For advice on the best management and protection for a particular site, please contact the Historic Places Trust or visit their website

Other QEII covenants protecting archaeological sites

Maori pa site protected by QEII covenant

Above: A Maori pa site in Taranaki protected by a QEII covenant.

Maori pa site protected by QEII covenant

Above: In the Bay of Plenty, a QEII covenant protects the earthworks of this Maori pa site.

Open Space™ Magazine No. 61, August 2004 © QEII National Trust

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