Local government

Local authorities participate in heritage management in various ways. These include preparation of district plans and policy statements under the Resource Management Act, statutory processes, partnerships, strategic direction, and public interest roles. They also manage historic heritage in areas for which they are responsible (eg regional parks).

Councils have responsibilities under various pieces of legislation for heritage management and protection, notably the Resource Management Act 1991, Heritage New Zealand Act 2014, Building Act 2004 and Local Government Act 2002.

Wellington City Council building

Functions under the Resource Management Act 1991

Local authorities have the statutory responsibility to recognise and provide for the protection of historic heritage from inappropriate subdivision, use and development within the context of sustainable management. Responsibilities for managing adverse effects on heritage arise as part of policy and plan preparation, and the resource consent processes.

Local authorities are also heritage protection authorities in relation to any heritage orders they administer.  Local authorities have a duty to gather information and monitor the state of the environment in the region or district (section 35 of the RMA).

As owners of heritage places (eg buildings, parks, reserves, infrastructure, and archaeological sites), local authorities must meet relevant statutory requirements and comply with plan rules for land they own and administer.  Local authorities can set a good example for heritage management in the district or
region (and to the wider community) by ensuring that their own assets have been researched and evaluated for their heritage values, and are managed in accordance with conservation principles.

Local authorities have a responsibility under the RMA to take into account the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.  Forming partnerships with Maori and providing training for staff in protocol and language can begin to address this.  Local authorities should develop policies that address how the objectives and policies stated in iwi management plans will be integrated with the council’s planning practices.

Functions under the Building Act 2004

The Building Act 2004 regulates all buildings and structures to safeguard the health, safety, and amenity of people, facilitate efficient energy use, and to protect property from damage.  The key regulatory tool is the Building Regulations 1992 which contains the mandatory New Zealand Building Code.

In administering its functions under the Building Act, the territorial authority can adopt a flexible approach with heritage buildings.  The Act states that the territorial authority shall have due regard to any special historical or cultural value of a building.

The Building Act links with the Heritage New Zealand Act through Project Information Memoranda (PIMs) and building consent processes.  These links provide an ‘early warning system’ to enable Heritage New Zealand to fulfill its statutory function to advocate the protection of historical and cultural heritage in the public interest.

It is the role of the territorial authority (not Heritage New Zealand) to grant or refuse an application for a building consent based largely on compliance with the building code.

The Building Act also contains provisions relating to managing dangerous or insanitary buildings. These provisions may require owners of heritage building to strengthen their building or remove any danger.

Functions under the Local Government Act 2002

Under the Local Government Act 2002 (LGA) a local authority must provide opportunities for Māori to contribute to the decision-making processes of the local authority, consider ways in which it may foster the development of Māori capacity to contribute to the decision-making processes of the local authority, and provide relevant information to Māori for the purposes of enabling Māori to contribute to decision making (see s.81 of the LGA).  A local authority can address this by ensuring processes are in place for consulting with Maori.

The LGA provides for community plans, and a sustainable development approach to strategic land use and planning in New Zealand.  The LGA provides requirements for consultation to ensure plans reflect community-based objectives.  Strategic direction for growth of new development, or even negative growth as places contract, should always address the effects on heritage places.  As areas used by the community change, new uses may need to be found for heritage buildings and places.

Sustainable Heritage Management series: Heritage toolkit

For more information

Your local authority can help answer many questions relating to cultural and heritage management in your region.

Many local authorities actively promote heritage in their area and offer incentives such as grants and/or fee waivers to property owners. Some also employ specialist staff who are able to offer advice to anyone wanting to promote and protect their historic building or site. Contact your local or regional council for more details.

Sustainable Management Guidelines

The Sustainable Management guidance series aims to assist owners with protection and conservation of heritage under the Resource Management Act 1991 and other legislation.  The series consists of guidelines, discussion papers and information sheets - you can read more in the Resources section.

National assessment of RMA policies and plans 2018

National Assessments of RMA Policies and Plans - Heritage Provisions

Heritage New Zealand carries out national assessments of RMA polices and plans every three years.  These assessments provide an overview of Resource Management Act (RMA) district plan provisions relating to historic heritage.  The assessments evaluate plans against a range of indicators based on:

  • Heritage New Zealand's key performance indicators set out in the annual Statements of Performance Expectations
  • Guidance in the Sustainable Management of Historic Heritage series, particularly guidance on district plan provisions.

This enables comparable assessments and tracking of progress to protect historic heritage by local authorities in New Zealand.  Download copies of the most recent and earlier versions of the National Assessments from the Advocating for Heritage section.

HNZPT Advocacy Policy

Statement of General Policy: Statutory Advocacy

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 our advocacy role.  

Download a copy of the General Statement of Policy: Heritage New Zealand's Statutory Role of Advocacy (pdf, 251kb).