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 

Please click on the following links to access information on the archaeological authority process relating to the Canterbury Earthquake 2011-2012 or the Magnitude 7.8 Kaikoura Earthquake 2016.

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 (use Adobe Acrobat reader 6.0 or higher) 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.

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. Emailed electronic applications 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, B, C & D for contact details).

The relevant email addresses are as follows:

Application Form A: for a General Authority

This form is for a general authority which involves an activity that will or may modify or destroy the whole or any part of any archaeological site or sites within a specified area of land, whether or not a site is a recorded archaeological site or is entered on the New Zealand Heritage List.

This accompanying Guide A will assist in the completion of the application form.

Application Form B: for a General Authority for a site where the effect will be no more than minor

This form is for a general authority where the effect will be no more than minor. For example, a proposed driveway might clip the side of an archaeological site, affecting only a very small portion of the site. The archaeological site must be a recorded site (i.e. the site must be known to be present not just suspected, and it must have been recorded in the New Zealand Archaeological Association’s Site Recording Scheme).

This accompanying Guide B will assist in the completion of the application form.

Application Form C: for a Scientific Authority

This form is for an authority to conduct a scientific investigation of an archaeological site. For example, an archaeological excavation carried out by a university for scientific or research purposes. This option does not apply to land-use applications. Please note that Tangata Whenua (or Moriori for Chatham Is applications) consent is mandatory for this option.

This accompanying Guide C will assist in the completion of the application form.

Application Form D: for an Exploratory Authority

This form is an application to carry out an exploratory investigation of any site or locality. For example, to establish the presence or absence of an archaeological site in an area where there are no existing indications, or to carry out limited investigation of a known site to determine its boundaries or nature.

This accompanying Guide D will assist in the completion of the application form.

Other forms

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

Application Form E: for Approval or Change of Archaeologist

This form is an application for the approval or change of an archaeologist to undertake any proposed work. A copy of this form can also be found appended to Forms A, B, C & D however a separate version is provided here for instances where the appointment of an archaeologist is not able to occur concurrently with the application for an authority.

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

Application Form F: for Landowner Consent

This form is to be used to provide landowner consent for works to be carried out under an archaeological authority that has already been granted. Obtaining consent of all land owners is a legal requirement. No works for which the archaeological authority was granted can commence until all landowner consent has been provided 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 Regional 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

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).