Care for cultural heritage
IntroductionHelp care for the places that shaped New Zealand. Take only photos and leave only footprints when visiting cultural heritage sites.
Cultural heritage sites are places in the landscape that tell the physical, spiritual and cultural stories of our past. They are places we value and connect to as New Zealanders. Help protect them.
Cultural heritage sites may be physical remains, such as pā, redoubts, bridges, wharves, roads, buildings, gold mining sites, heritage trees, plants, gardens and artefacts.
They can also be places of significance such as waahi taonga and waahi tapu and places of belief and spiritual significance like Cape Reinga / Te Rerenga Wairua.
On this page:
- Take only photos – leave sites as you find them
- What to do if you find a heritage site
- Report damage to heritage sites
When you visit a cultural heritage site, take nothing from the site and leave it as you found it. If we take things away from a heritage site we lose important parts of its history and story that can’t be replaced.
- Never remove or change things you find on a cultural heritage site. For example, do not take things like old bottles, artefacts, or timbers home, or remove soil or vegetation to expose more of the site.
- Be respectful of cultural sites. For example, do not eat in urupa or cemeteries, wāhi tapu, or pā and battle sites.
- Never damage a cultural heritage site with graffiti, metal detecting, cutting new tracks or trails.
- Take your rubbish with you.
It's illegal to take items away or do any other damage to cultural heritage sites. This includes metal detecting, fossicking or vandalism such as graffiti.
- Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act.
- Removal of war artefacts from Ruapekapeka Pā results in a $1,600 fine.
Just like our native plants and animals, cultural heritage sites are often unique and fragile – they can be easily damaged. Unless a sign says you can safely enter, stay out of any tunnels or pits and do not climb onto buildings or walls. This helps preserve these sites.
There are thousands of heritage sites across New Zealand. If you find an artefact or koiwi/human remains on public conservation land:
- do not disturb it
- do not remove items
- do not share on social or public media.
Some sites are very fragile or culturally significant. To share what you found may put them at risk of being damaged or destroyed by others.
The best thing to do is to:
- Leave the site alone.
- Take a photo if it’s safe to do so.
- Contact the nearest DOC office or visitor centre to let us know about the find as soon as you can.
If you find koiwi/human remains contact the Police and the nearest DOC office or visitor centre.
Do not explore closed heritage sites
Help protect yourself and the history of closed heritage sites by not exploring them. Closed heritage sites are normally:
- unsafe buildings or walls
- unsafe structures like bridges, mining tunnels and shafts
- unsafe fortifications.
Health and safety is important to DOC to provide a safe recreation environment for the public. Sometimes visits to heritage sites are restricted due to reasons like structural issues, rock falls, or fall risks. You’ll know a heritage site is closed because there is a "Danger keep out" sign.
Going into sites like these can put you in danger of getting hurt. You may also accidentally damage fragile pieces of the site and its history.
If you see vandalism or damage being caused to heritage sites in conservation areas, call DOC HOT (0800 362 468).
If you find vandalism or damage to a heritage site, contact your local DOC office.