Archaeological authorities

Courtesy of Vanessa Tanner

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Learn more about the different types of archaeological authorities, the application process and alternatives to authorities.

What is an authority?

Are you planning to undertake works that may:

  • modify an archaeological site?
  • modify a pre-1900 structure?
  • demolish a pre-1900 building?
  • modify a shipwreck?

Then you need an archaeological authority.

An archaeological authority is an authorisation document applied for when you are planning to undertake work such as forestry operations, building demolition or strengthening, mining, road construction, building, landscaping, alteration of a shipwreck, harvesting, planting or fencing.

An authority from Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga is legally required for any instance where there is cause to suspect a recorded or unrecorded archaeological site may be affected, regardless of reserve status, whether you own the land the site is on, whether it is on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero or if resource or building consent has been granted.

The authority regulates the recovery of information from that site and has conditions that must be followed.

It is unlawful to modify or destroy an archaeological site without an authority from Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga. Unlawful modification or destruction of a site could result in fines and a criminal conviction.

Archaeological authorities
Applying for an archaeological authority
Application process and archaeological authority forms.
Emergency authorities
Information on authorities related to states of emergency and transition periods.
Guidelines and templates
Guidelines and templates to support archaeologists and potential applicants.
Applying for an authority

We strongly encourage you to contact us during the planning stage of your project. We can offer guidance on whether an authority may be required, what kind of authority you will need, what must be provided and information about the scope of archaeological work.

To apply for an archaeological authority, submit the relevant application form below. We will let you know if your application is complete within five working days. 

Once we have confirmed your application is complete, processing an authority can take between 10 and 40 working days (or up to five days for emergency authorities), after which you will receive a decision on whether your authority has been granted or declined. 

When we distribute your authority, you must wait for the 15 working day appeal period (or 14-day appeal period for emergency authorities) to expire before your works can begin. If an appeal is lodged, works cannot begin until the appeal is resolved.

Find out more with our Applying for an Archaeological Authority brochure.

Complying with an authority

If an authority application is granted, it will contain a list of conditions which must be followed.

Conditions usually require archaeological monitoring and recording to be carried out. A report documenting the work and its contribution to our understanding of the history of Aotearoa is required to be submitted at the end of the archaeological work. These reports are critical to ensuring that such information and knowledge is made available for future research and site management.

This report is then added to the archaeological reports Digital Library. It is the responsibility of authority holders to contract the archaeological work and pay for it.

Find out more with our Complying with an Archaeological Authority brochure.

Alternatives to authorities
Archaeological sites are an irreplaceable part of our heritage. Before applying for an authority, you should consider if there is an alternative option that will not damage the archaeological site. We are happy to advise on potential options.
Application forms & submission
Melanesian Mission (List No. 111)
General Authority
Application Form A

This form is for an application for a general authority. Download and submit this form if you wish to undertake an activity that may modify or destroy all or part of an archaeological site. This applies to all archaeological sites, including those not yet identified. 

Melanesian Mission courtesy of Bev Parslow
Exploratory Authority
Application Form B

This form is for an application for an authority to carry out an exploratory investigation at the planning stage of a proposal.

An exploratory investigation could be utilised to:

  • confirm the presence or absence of an archaeological site
  • carry out a limited investigation of a known archaeological site to determine its boundaries or nature
  • establish how to avoid an archaeological site and understand the potential costs of modification
Mangahawea courtesy of James Robinson
Scientific Authority
Application Form C

This form is for an application for an authority to carry out a scientific investigation of an archaeological site.

Please note that Māori or Moriori consent is mandatory for this type of authority for archaeological sites that are of interest to Māori or Moriori. This type of authority does not apply to land use activities.

Kerikeri Mission House (List No. 2) courtesy of John O'Hare
Emergency Authority

This form is for when your work is necessary due to a NEMA declared state of emergency or transition period.

This authority enables your application to be assessed in three days (or five days where the application relates to sites of interest to Māori).

Courtesy of Vanessa Tanner
Transfer Authority
Application Form D

This form is to be used when the landowner and the authority holder are the same party and the land subject to an unfinished authority is sold to another party.

Courtesy of Vanessa Tanner
Approval or Change of Person
Application Form E

This form is to be used for the approval or change of a person to undertake work associated with an archaeological authority.

Mangahawea courtesy of James Robinson
Land Owner Consent
Application Form F

This form is for an application to provide landowner consent for an activity to be carried out under an archaeological authority that has already been granted.

National State of Emergency: Cyclone Gabrielle

On 14 February 2023, the government declared a National State of Emergency to assist in the response to Cyclone Gabrielle.

Emergency archaeological authorities

Emergency archaeological authorities are for when ground disturbing work is necessary due to a NEMA declared state of emergency (including Cyclone Gabrielle).

The emergency authority process is streamlined so that a decision about an application will be made within three days of submission, or five days if it relates to sites of interest to Māori.

We highly recommend contacting us for a pre-application discussion. Read our emergency authorities guidelines here or contact us at any of our offices.

Download form and guide here.

Submit your application here.

For general questions regarding the emergency authority process, please contact us at the following:

An archaeological authority (under Subpart 3 Emergency Authorities, Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014) may be required for all other work other than that covered by the emergency authority process, which will result in the modification or destruction of an archaeological site.

For help and advice about the emergency archaeological authority process outside of the regions listed above, see the contact details included at the back of the application form.

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