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How does ‘Heritage’ fit into the RPS?

Our historic and cultural heritage is central to our national identity, but it is a finite resource and is rapidly disappearing. Once lost, it cannot be replaced. Heritage contributes to an understanding and appreciation of New Zealand’s history and cultures, and provides opportunities for increasing economic growth including tourism. 

Image - family at maraeA legacy of historic heritage items that reflect the lives and work of those who have gone before has been left in the region and these items provide a valuable link to the past. It is important that these heritage items are protected so that the community can understand its past while it looks to its future. Historically, the protection of built heritage has had more prominence as communities relate to tangible items. Archaeological sites and sites of significance to Māori are generally not tangible and therefore are prone to development.  These sites have often not been well protected resulting in them being destroyed or damaged by economic development, farming practices, erosion and natural progression. This leaves many places as only a marker of association of a place that once formed a pattern of migration and settlement of pre-indigenous Māori.  This is partly due to a lack of knowledge about these sites, as what is not known can not be protected, but there is also variation in how heritage resources are identified and managed. 

Baseline information about historic heritage resources is patchy and very little monitoring has been undertaken to understand what we have, and what we are losing. Each territorial authority manages heritage differently resulting in inconsistency in heritage protection. The issue of demolition by neglect is also not being addressed. Added to that there is a lack of understanding within the community of the role that territorial authorities and Heritage New Zealand play in protecting heritage and the requirements under the Resource Management Act.  

The RPS focuses on improving knowledge about historic and cultural heritage at a regional scale and achieving consistent and collaborative management of these finite resources. This includes establishing a Heritage Forum, building relationships with Māori, increasing identification of cultural heritage and focusing on recording heritage items in order to manage development of them.

Recognising and providing for the relationship of Māori and their culture and traditions with their ancestral lands, water, sites, wāhi tapu and other taonga, is a matter of national importance under the Resource Management Act. It is expected that recognition will be given to the particular significance and meaning that taonga (including areas, places, landscapes and resources) can have to tāngata whenua. The relationship of tāngata whenua with their rohe should be maintained or enhanced through the protection, maintenance or enhancement of Māori cultural landscapes.

Key messages

Working together: Waikato Regional Council has established a Regional Heritage Forum.

The Forum will see representatives of territorial authorities, tāngata whenua, Heritage New Zealand and other stakeholders (including landowner representatives) develop and assess options to best manage historic and cultural heritage through a centralised heritage inventory. This inventory will keep updated information on items, objects, sites and places of cultural or historic interest in the region. Information can then be used to monitor the condition and extent of heritage resources over time.  It will clearly identify that which requires protection from inappropriate subdivision, use and development. It will also provide a region wide perspective on heritage and increase awareness.

Read the Forum's terms of reference [PDF, 477 KB]

Recognising cultural and physical heritage: Waikato Regional Council will encourage tāngata whenua to identify those areas, places, landscapes and resources of significance, including those with significant spiritual or cultural historic heritage values. There will then be opportunities to recognise or reflect the kōrero (stories), names, events, whakatauākī (proverbs) and beliefs associated with them. 

There are a number of practical measures by which tāngata whenua’s relationship with an area can be recognised and, thereby, maintained or restored. This may range from using appropriate Māori names for roads or places to protecting the values of landscapes that span large areas like foothills and traditional migration routes.

image - weaving image - carved pounamu image - taonga

Key contacts

Mark Tamura - Manager for Science and Strategy (Integration and Infrastructure)

Mali Ahipene Pou Tuhono for Community and Services (Tai-ranga-whenua)


“Heritage tells the story about the people of the past. It is a finite resource and there is only one chance of preserving heritage items as any removal or change is permanent. Change in the historic environment is inevitable and for this reason it is imperative to identify, protect, promote and manage the resources that communities wish to see preserved for future generations. Heritage is not about locking things up, it is keeping links to the past while enabling the present and looking to the future.”  Betty Connolly, Senior Policy Planner at the Waikato District Council.