World Heritage Convention

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Convention encourages the identification, protection and preservation of the world’s outstanding cultural and natural heritage sites for the international community and future generations.

The World Heritage Convention was adopted by UNESCO in 1972 and is one of the most widely supported of the United Nations’ conventions, with 186 member countries. It recognises that there are some places on earth so important that their enjoyment and protection is an international responsibility.

There are currently 878 sites on the World Heritage List; these include 679 cultural, 174 natural and 25 mixed sites in 145 countries. Places become a World Heritage site because they represent the best examples of the world’s natural and cultural heritage. Some well-known sites include Stonehenge, the Acropolis, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Serengeti.

Auckland Islands in the subantarctic. Photo: Andrew Maloney. DOC USE ONLY.
Auckland Islands in the subantarctic

World heritage and New Zealand

New Zealand signed up to the World Heritage Convention in 1984 and was on the World Heritage Committee from 2003 to 2007.

New Zealand hosted the 31st session of the World Heritage Committee in Christchurch in 2007. This was only the second time the meeting had been held in Australasia in the past 20 years, and the first for New Zealand since adoption of the Convention in 1972. 

From 16 July 2006 to 2 July 2007, Paramount Chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa Tumu te Heuheu was chair of the World Heritage Committee.

New Zealand’s world heritage areas

New Zealand has three sites on the List:

New Zealand’s tentative list

A tentative list is a record of sites that a member country believes could meet the criteria for nomination as world heritage sites. This is an important process for New Zealand as the Committee only considers nominations that are already on a country’s tentative list.

The Department submitted New Zealand's tentative list to the World Heritage Committee at its meeting in Christchurch in 2007.

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