“Policy for Government departments’ management of historic heritage 2004 (August 2004)” : Policy @ MCH Website

Policy for Government departments' management of historic heritage 2004 (August 2004)



New Zealand's historic heritage is rich, varied and unique. It is a legacy of all generations, from the earliest places of Māori use and occupation to inner-city buildings. Places of historic heritage value are integral to our sense of nationhood and are an important visual and historical presence in the landscape. Iwi and hapū identity and cultural well-being are inseparable from whakapapa connections with places of historic heritage significance to Māori.

Government departments are the stewards of a large and significant portfolio of historic heritage, which they manage on behalf of the people of New Zealand. These properties illustrate aspects of past and continuing government activities, and New Zealand's social and economic development, culture and identity.

The government is committed to the promotion and protection of New Zealand's historic heritage and has established legislation and agencies for this purpose. It has ratified the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972). This policy is a further demonstration of the government's leadership role in historic heritage management.

The government regards the management of the historic heritage within its care as an important part of its responsibilities and will ensure that historic heritage values are taken into account when decisions are made. It has therefore decided to adopt a best practice approach in order to:

  • respect and acknowledge the importance of the historic heritage in its care;
  • foster an appreciation of and pride in the nation's heritage;
  • ensure that its historic heritage is cared for and, where appropriate, used for the benefit of all New Zealanders;
  • ensure consistency of practice between government departments;
  • set an example to other owners of historic heritage, including local government, public institutions and the private sector;
  • contribute to the conservation of a full range of places of historic heritage value;
  • ensure that places of significance to Māori in its care are appropriately managed and conserved in a manner that respects mātauranga Māori and is consistent with the tikanga and kawa of the tangata whenua; and
  • contribute to cultural tourism and economic development.

Following adoption of this document, departments holding properties of historic heritage value will work with Ministry for Culture and Heritage on the development of guidelines based on these policies.

The potential constraints on the management of government historic heritage

It is recognised that there may be constraints on effective management of government heritage. Examples include:

  • The special operational needs of particular departments, for example, the requirements of the New Zealand Defence Force, security of departmental buildings, facilities for research institutions.
  • Societal or cultural practices that may require physical changes to places, for example, changes to institutional practices in prisons and courts, the provision of facilities for immigrant and religious groups, and demographic changes.
  • Compliance with legislation, such as the Building Act1991, which may require balancing public health and safety with conservation objectives.
  • The competing needs for limited resources.
  • Other government policies on the disposal of surplus property.

Heritage Principles

The following are the key principles designed to inform a best practice approach to heritage management in New Zealand by government departments, and reflect national legislation and international and national charters and guidelines.

Intrinsic values

Historic heritage has lasting value in its own right and provides evidence of the origins and development of New Zealand's distinct peoples and society.


The diverse cultures of New Zealand and its diverse social and physical environments are important considerations in historic heritage identification and management.


Places of historic heritage value are finite and comprise non-renewable resources that need to be safeguarded for present and future generations.

Māori heritage

The government has a significant role in the management, with Māori, of places of significance to iwi and hapū throughout New Zealand.

Research and documentation

The conservation of historic heritage requires that the resource be fully identified, researched and documented.

Respect for physical material

Historic heritage practice involves the least possible alteration or loss of material of historic heritage value.

Understanding significance

The values of historic heritage places are clearly understood before decisions are taken that may result in change. Decision making, where change is being contemplated, takes into account all relevant values, cultural knowledge, and disciplines.

Setting and curtilage

The setting and curtilage of historic heritage places often have heritage value in their own right and are regarded as integral to a place.


The policies provide a framework for the management of government departments' historic heritage. As acknowledged in the constraints above, operational requirements of particular departments may need to be taken into account when implementing guidelines to fulfil these policies.

Identification and documentation

Policy 1 – Identification (a)

Government departments will identify places of historic heritage value on the land they manage, based on the following values: aesthetic, archaeological, architectural, cultural, historical, scientific, social, spiritual, technological, or traditional significance or value.

Policy 2 – Identification (b)

Government departments will work with iwi and hapū to identify places of historic heritage value to Māori on the land departments manage.

Policy 3Recognition

Government departments should support initiatives to recognise publicly the heritage values of historic heritage they manage, for example, registration under the Historic Places Act1993 and listing on district plans.

Policy 4 – Documentation

Government departments will research, assess, document, and record changes to their historic heritage. Access to such records may need to be restricted in line with iwi or hapū requirements or for functional reasons.

Planning and work

Policy 5 – Planning (a)

Government departments will provide for the long-term conservation (including disaster mitigation) of historic heritage, through the preparation of plans,including management plans for historic reserves, maintenance or conservation plans, and specifications. Hapu and iwi will be consulted where their historic heritage is involved.

Policy 6 – Planning (b)

When planning and carrying out work adjacent to places of historic heritage value, government departments will ensure that heritage values are not adversely affected.

Policy 7 – Monitoring, maintenance and repair

Government departments will care for their places of historic heritage value by monitoring their condition, maintaining them, and, where required, repairing them.

Policy 8 – Alteration

Where alterations are needed for a new or continuing use of a place with historic heritage value, or to secure its long life, government departments will ensure that heritage values are protected.

Policy 9 – Standards

For all planning and work on historic heritage, government departments will ensure that accepted national conservation standards are met. The ICOMOS New Zealand Charter1993 provides useful guidance.

Policy 10 – Skills and expertise

Government departments will ensure that appropriately qualified conservation professionals, conservators and trades people are involved in all aspects of the management of historic heritage. Planning and implementation should involve all relevant disciplines and all work should be supervised. Specialist conservation expertise will be sought where required for special fabric integral to a place, such as stained glass, carving and furnishings.

Policy 11 – New Zealand Historic Places Trust

Government departments will seek the advice of the Historic Places Trust on the management of items entered in the Trust's Register of Historic Places, Historic Areas, Wāhi Tapu and Wāhi Tapu Areas/Rārangi Taonga, on archaeological sites, and on places subject to a heritage order or a requirement for a heritage order notified by the Trust.


Policy 12 – Use

Government departments will ensure that their places of historic heritage value in active use are managed in such a way that:

  1. they retain, where appropriate, an ongoing function in the life of the community compatible with their heritage values;
  2. the continuation of original or long-term uses is strongly encouraged; and
  3. they are not disposed of without fully exploring options for their reuse or alternative compatible uses.

Policy 13 – Disposal

Government departments will ensure that in disposing of a place with historic heritage value:

  1. heritage values are protected, for example, through a heritage covenant;
  2. the public good is taken into account and financial return is not the sole criterion;
  3. heritage values are maintained and the fabric of the place is not allowed to deteriorate while decisions about future use and disposal are made; and
  4. the government's ‘Sites of Significance' process is followed, where applicable.

Policy 14 – Acquisition and lease

Government departments will not acquire or lease a place with historic heritage value if changes are envisaged or required to enable its functional use that will result in a significant loss of heritage values.

Government responsibilities

Policy 15 – Community participation

Government departments will invite public participation, where appropriate, in the management of historic heritage of special significance through various initiatives, such as:

  1. seeking public comment on conservation plans or disposal of historic heritage;
  2. establishing partnerships with communities of interest; and
  3. voluntary notification of resource consent applications.

Policy 16 – Education

Where practical and appropriate, government departments will promote the heritage values of the historic heritage they manage and facilitate public access to properties. Government employees will be made aware of the heritage values of government properties.

Policy 17 – Māori heritage

The relationship of Māori communities with their ancestral lands, water, sites, wāhi tapu and other taonga will be recognised and provided for by government departments in the management of their historic heritage. Participation by iwi and hapū in the management of places identified as having historic heritage value to Māori will be facilitated.

Policy 18 – Monitoring

The performance of government departments will be reviewed to ensure that heritage management policy is being implemented effectively.

Policy 19 – Compliance

Government departments will ensure that they comply with relevant statutory and regulatory requirements, including the Resource Management Act1991 and Historic Places Act1993.

Key Source Documents

ICOMOS New Zealand Charter for the Conservation of Places of Cultural Heritage Value, ICOMOS New Zealand, 1993

International Policies and Guidelines

A Presence for the Past: A report by the Committee of Review – Commonwealth Owned Heritage Properties, Commonwealth of Australia, 1996

Heritage Strategies: A guide for Commonwealth Agencies, Dept. of the Environment and Heritage, Australian Government, 2004

Management Policies 2001, National Parks Service, United States Government, 2000

National Policy for the Disposal of Public Property, Australian Council of National Trusts, 2002

Protocol for the Care of the Government Historic Estate 2003, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, London

The Care of Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments, Guidelines for Government Departments and Agencies, Government Historic Buildings Advisory Unit, English Heritage, 1998

Treasury Board Heritage Buildings Policy, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, 1998


Historic Places Act1993

Resource Management Act1991

Building Act1991

Reserves Act1977

Conservation Act1987


Archaeological site means any place in New Zealand that –

(a) Either -

  1. Was associated with human activity that occurred before 1900; or
  2. Is the site of the wreck of any vessel where that wreck occurred before 1900; and

(b) Is or may be able through investigation by archaeological methods to provide evidence relating to the history of New Zealand. (Historic Places Act1993)

Best practice means a method that has been judged to be superior to other methods, or a procedure or activity that has produced outstanding results in one situation and could be adapted to improve effectiveness, efficiency and/or innovation in another situation.

Curtilage means the geographical area that provides the immediate physical context for a heritage place. Note that land title boundaries and heritage curtilages do not necessarily coincide.

Government departments includes, for the purposes of this policy, New Zealand Defence Force, New Zealand Police, and Parliamentary Service. (It is recognised that Parliamentary Service is not an instrument of the executive government and retains the separate rights and responsibilities of the House of Representatives and the Speaker.)

Historic heritage means those 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; and includes: historic sites, structures, places, and areas; archaeological sites; sites of significance to Māori, including wāhi tapu; surroundings associated with the natural and physical resources. (Resource Management Act1991)

Historic heritage of significance to Māor means all places of Māori origin as well as later places of significance to Māori, as determined by iwi and hapū.

Place encompasses, for the purposes of this policy, all historic heritage as defined above, including areas.



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