Our Cultural and Historic Heritage

Our Cultural and Historic Heritage

What is historic heritage?

The protection of historic heritage from subdivision, use and development that is inappropriate is a matter of national importance. Historic heritage is defined in the Resource Management Act 1991 as the natural and physical resources that contribute to an understanding and appreciation of New Zealand’s history and cultures, deriving from any of the following qualities:

  • Archaeological
  • Architectural
  • Cultural
  • Historic
  • Scientific
  • Technological

It includes historic buildings and structures, archaeological sites, sites and areas of significance to Māori, including wāhi tapu, and surroundings associated with these.

Why is historic and cultural heritage important?

Our District is rich in both the structures and sites that remain, and the intangible values associated with our ancestors. Not only does heritage provide us with a connection to the people who lived before us, but it helps define who we are and contributes to our sense of place.

Who is responsible for looking after our historic heritage?

WDC has to develop and maintain a schedule of known historic heritage and include it in our District Plan. It is the District Council’s responsibility to look after historic and cultural heritage on land, and in the beds of rivers and lakes.

The Waikato Regional Council is responsible for identifying and managing historic heritage in the coastal marine area (generally the seaward boundary from Mean High Water Spring to the territorial sea limit 12 nautical miles offshore).

Our new District Plan will have a range of provisions to enable the protection of the diverse elements that contribute to our historic heritage including buildings and structures, significant archaeological sites, and sites and areas of significance to Māori.

Heritage Buildings and Structures

Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga (HNZPT) maintains the New Zealand Heritage List. At the moment there are 15 heritage sites of National and District significance included in the current District Plan. WDC are working with HNZPT, local groups and individuals to better catalogue the built heritage of the District. 

Sites and Areas of Significance to Māori

Historic heritage includes cultural sites, sites and areas of significance to Māori (SASM) and wāhi tapu sites identified under the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014. The current District Plan identifies 129 Heritage Sites on the planning maps as sites of cultural importance to Māori, natural features, remnant bush, and individual trees. Council have been working closely with mana whenua to ensure that these sites are properly identified and protected. Currently, around 200 sites are being considered for inclusion in the new District Plan based on their cultural heritage values.

Archaeological Sites

An archaeological site is a place associated with pre-1900 human activity, where there may be evidence relating to the history of New Zealand. The New Zealand Archaeological Association (NZAA) owns and manages the national database of archaeological records, the Site Recording Scheme. The current District Plan maps the NZAA sites and has policies and rules that protect these sites. The new District Plan will not map these sites, instead the website will show the location of sites recorded by the NZAA. The new District Plan will contain assessment criteria to make sure that subdivision and development does not impact archaeological sites, but ultimately the responsibility for authorising any activity that affects an archaeological site sits with HNZPT.

Significant Archaeological Sites

In accordance with direction from HNZPT, a small number of significant archaeological sites have been identified throughout Waitomo District. These sites will be subject to a set of rules and policies in the new District Plan. The archaeologist working on behalf of Council has employed the Waikato Regional Policy Statement assessment criteria  in order to help identify the significant historic, archaeological and cultural heritage values of these sites. 

Character Clusters

WDC has also been considering whether some groupings of buildings are particularly representative of certain periods of development that have occurred within our towns. These groups of buildings, their architecture, unique façades and general surrounds contribute to a distinctive character in some places. It is possible that the new District Plan will have some rules which protect these buildings from renovation, relocation or redevelopment which may not be sensitive to its era or its wider setting.