Agencies encourage a ‘look, don’t touch’ policy for all heritage sites
Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication.
IntroductionDOC and Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga (HNZPT) are reminding people to report any cultural heritage finds to the relevant agency to help preserve them for future generations.
Date: 11 August 2021
DOC Te Anau Operations Manager John Lucas says across New Zealand there are thousands of recorded heritage sites which have only survived through careful and sensitive management.
“In Fiordland, cultural heritage sites tell the story of New Zealand dating back to the first Polynesian explorers. Of particular importance are those places where the story of the early contact between Māori and Pākehā can still be seen,” says John Lucas.
The reminder comes after recent reports of a cave site with evidence of occupation by 19th century sailors and a cannon were discovered in an isolated part of Fiordland. While the site was already a known recorded heritage location, it’s a timely reminder for people when they happen across archaeological sites to ask for advice before investigating and going public, John Lucas says.
DOC Te Anau heritage supervisor Pania Dalley says similar to protecting endangered flora and fauna, the whereabouts of known rare and sensitive cultural heritage sites in New Zealand are not typically advertised by the agency responsible for their management.
“This helps keep the sites intact and untouched as well as mitigates the risk of theft.”
Occasionally though, new sites are uncovered, Pania Dalley says.
“Fiordland has been thoroughly surveyed for heritage sites over the years but occasionally artefacts or new sites will be found. We encourage people who do encounter such places and items to contact DOC in the first instance.”
HNZPT Otago Southland Archaeologist Nikole Wills says all archaeological sites and artefacts, including recorded or previously undiscovered archaeological sites, are legally protected in New Zealand.
“Archaeological sites have been protected under New Zealand law as far back as 1980 and this includes shipwrecks dating before 1900.
“If a discovery is made by the public, the safest thing to do is record your find, leave it be and contact HNZPT or, if on public conservation land, DOC,” Nikole Wills says.
It is important for finders to give government agencies time to respond about discoveries as sometimes other parties connected to the site or find must be contacted first. Both DOC and HNZPT have established relationships with local iwi regarding finds relating to Māori heritage.
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