Anyone excavating land – from a small area for a house site all the way through to a quarry operator – needs to be aware that there may be a requirement to obtain an Archaeological Authority under the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 (the Act).
If you haven't considered this issue before commencing your activity you may be in breach of the obligation to obtain an Archaeological Authority under the Act. Failure to comply with the Act can result in a maximum fine of $300,000 if an archaeological site is destroyed.
An Archaeological Authority acts as sign off for activities to occur at an archaeological site. It sets out how any discovery is to be dealt with, as well as sometimes permitting modification or destruction of a site.
The definition of an 'archaeological site' is incredibly broad, encompassing all places that were associated with human activity that occurred before the 1900s, and which may provide evidence relating to the history of New Zealand. This definition captures large swathes of the country.
Although district plans identify areas of particular historical significance, these do not limit the areas where an authority would be required. There will be many areas that meet the definition of an archaeological site that have not been identified by district councils.
If there is a chance that an archaeological site could be modified or destroyed – for example by quarry operations, building developments or other earthworks – an Archaeological Authority is required. This is particularly relevant given the current Christchurch environment, with many older buildings being demolished (which may be archaeological sites themselves), and earthworks taking place for new buildings to be constructed.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.