Standard Archaeological Authority Process

The Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 makes it unlawful for any person to modify or destroy, or cause to be modified or destroyed, the whole or any part of an archaeological site without the prior authority of Heritage New Zealand. If you wish to do any work that may affect an archaeological site you must obtain an authority from Heritage New Zealand before you begin.

Sieving at a site
Sieving at an archaeological site. Photo: Heritage New Zealandexpand/collapse

This is the case regardless of whether the land on which the site is located is designated, or the activity is permitted under the District or Regional Plan or a resource or building consent has been granted. The Act provides for substantial penalties for unauthorised destruction or modification.

An archaeological site is defined in the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 as any place in New Zealand (including buildings, structures or shipwrecks) that was associated with pre-1900 human activity, where there is evidence relating to the history of New Zealand that can be investigated using archaeological methods.

As mentioned above, before undertaking any work that may affect an archaeological you must obtain an authority from Heritage New Zealand. This work could include, amongst other things:



  • Earthworks for forestry tracks, planting and harvesting
  • Earthworks for residential developments, including building platforms, topsoil stripping and access ways
  • Earthworks for stock races or farm tracks, fencing or landscaping
  • Trenching for telephone, power, and waste disposal
  • Road construction
  • Quarrying
  • Building demolition
  • Alteration of a shipwreck

If you uncover a previously unknown site during earthworks, you may also need permission to continue. You must stop any work that could affect the site and contact us for advice on how to proceed.

It is recommended that you undertake pre-application discussions with Heritage New Zealand during the planning stages of your project, prior to submitting your application form. This will ensure that the process will run as smoothly as possible.

For further information please contact your nearest Heritage New Zealand office or email archaeologist@heritage.org.nz. 

Please click on the following links to access information on the archaeological authority process relating to the Canterbury Earthquake 2011-2012 or other events where a civil defence emergency or a local or national transition period has been notified (including the Magnitude 7.8 Kaikoura Earthquake 2016 and Cyclone Cook 2017). 

You can access online information about archaeological sites through the New Zealand Archaeological Association's site recording scheme, ArchSite.

Obtaining an Archaeological Authority

There are four application forms for the different types of archaeological authority, each of which has an accompanying guide to assist in their completion. These forms are provided in a PDF version for either electronic completion (preferred) or to print out for manual completion. For electronic completion, download the form, save it to your computer, and after you have completed it email to one of the addresses provided below. Please ensure that your Adobe Acrobat Reader is versions 6.0 or higher to ensure full functionality (https://acrobat.adobe.com/nz/en/acrobat/pdf-reader.html).

Your application must be completed in full (i.e. you cannot refer to other documents in place of providing an answer) otherwise your application may not be accepted. This is important as the application form is the legal document whereas the supporting documentation is not. It is also important as an indication that the applicant has read the supporting documentation.

The completed form plus any accompanying pages and reports may be received in electronic or hard copy format. Electronic applications must be legible, and maps and plans provided in colour at a minimum of 400dpi. To email an application click on the appropriate office email link provided below. Please note that these emails
must be no larger than 10MB, and have “AUTHORITY APPLICATION” typed in the subject line. For any applications larger than 10MB, click on the "large files" link next to the appropriate office email address and upload your files.

It is important that the email addresses provided below are used for new applications only, and not for general correspondence. Hard copy applications can be posted to the relevant Heritage New Zealand office (see Guides A and B for contact details).

The relevant email addresses are as follows:

Application Form A: for a general authority (including for an archaeological site where the effect will be no more than minor)

This form is for an application for a general authority (pdf, 900KB), including for those cases where the effect on the archaeological site will be no more than minor.

Download and complete this form if you wish to undertake an activity that may:

  • Modify or destroy an archaeological site. This applies to all archaeological sites, including those not yet identified; OR
  • Have an effect on an archaeological site that’s no more than minor and where the site is recorded in the national inventory of archaeological sites.

This accompanying Guide A (pdf, 400KB) will assist in the completion of the application form.

Application Form B: for an exploratory application

This form is for an application for an authority to carry out an exploratory investigation (pdf, 830KB). An exploratory investigation could be utilised to establish the presence or absence of an archaeological site, or to carry out limited investigation of a known archaeological site to determine its boundaries or nature.

This accompanying Guide B (pdf, 330KB) will assist in the completion of the application form.

Application Form C: for a scientific authority

This form is for an application for an authority to carry out a scientific investigation (pdf, 850KB) of an archaeological site. For example, an excavation carried out by a University for scientific or research purposes. This type of authority does not apply to land-use activities. Please note that Maori or Moriori  (Chatham Is) consent is mandatory for this type of authority for archaeological sites that are of interest to Maori or Moriori (Chatham Is).

This accompanying Guide C (pdf, 320KB) will assist in the completion of the application form.

Other forms

In addition, there are a further three forms which may be required depending on the situation:

Application Form D: for the transfer of responsibility for authority conditions according to section 55(2) of the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 when the land owner changes

This form is to be used when the land owner and the authority holder are the same party (pdf, 900KB) and the land subject to an unfinished authority is sold to another party.

Application Form E: for approval or change of a person to undertake an activity under the authority

This form is to be used for the approval or change of a person (pdf, 690KB) to undertake the work associated with an archaeological authority.

A copy of this form can also be found appended to Forms A, B and C  however a separate version is provided here for instances where the appointment of an approved person is not able to occur concurrently with the application for an authority, or where it is proposed that the approved person is changed after the authority has been granted.

All work carried out under an archaeological authority will involve the participation of an approved person to varying degrees. This person must be approved by Heritage New Zealand prior to work commencing.

Application Form F: for land owner consent

This form is for an application to provide land owner consent (pdf, 830KB) for an activity to be carried out under an archaeological authority that has already been granted. Note that obtaining consent of all land owners is a legal requirement. No activity  which the archaeological authority was granted for can commence until all land owner consent have been obtained and notified to Heritage New Zealand.

Complying with an Archaeological Authority

Archaeological sites are an irreplaceable part of our heritage and although our history is short, it is rich, varied and unique, and belongs to all New Zealanders.  What we discover from archaeological sites helps us to better understand our past and to learn from it.  By complying with your authority conditions, you help add to our knowledge and help us preserve our heritage for the future.

Heritage New Zealand takes compliance seriously, and the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 has strong provisions for non-compliance. We want to see the best outcome for the archaeological sites and to help ensure your project runs smoothly.  If you have other questions, please call the Archaeologist in the Heritage New Zealand office nearest you.

Prosecution Policy

On occasion, it is necessary for Heritage New Zealand to exercise its enforcement powers under the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014. This policy (pdf) sets out how we generally approach prosecution.


HNZPT Archaeology Policy
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Statement of General Policy: Administration of the Archaeological Provisions

To provide leadership and direction in key areas of work, HNZPT has produced statements of general policy for five key activities, as required by section 17 of the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014.  One of these is for archaeology.  

Download a copy of the Statement of General Policy: The Administration of the Archaeological Provisions under the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 (pdf, 232kb).