Identification of Historic Heritage

While all district plans contain a heritage schedule, the nature and type of the heritage schedules vary. Some schedules are limited to places formerly registered under the Historic Places Act 1993 (now the New Zealand Heritage List/ Rārangi Kōrero). Other schedules are more substantial with lists of heritage buildings, archaeological sites, heritage precincts and Māori heritage. While regional plans may contain heritage schedules, they should not duplicate district plan schedules.

An identification process is essential to ensure heritage schedules are updated and include the most significant heritage places. Conversely, identification will ensure places of low significance or destroyed places are removed from the heritage schedule.

The identification process should also be designed to provide robust and sufficient information about scheduled heritage places. This will include:

  • Names - correct names of heritage places are used;
  • Ownership – change of ownership is recorded;
  • Geographical boundaries – the ‘extent’ of the place is identified on GIS;
  • Significance – the values of the place are known;
  • Evidence-base – research, maps, plans and photographs are updated;
  • Risk and condition – the risks to the place are known; and
  • Other changes are recorded.


For places entered on the New Zealand heritage list, information may be available on the Heritage New Zealand website.

Entries for historic places and historic areas include general identification, history and significance of the place, and most contain images. The information available varies between entries, but the more recent entries have very detailed reports.

Following the Canterbury earthquakes, earthquake-related risk information will also be required. This will include the building construction type, age of construction, residential or non-residential status and potentially earthquake-prone building rating under the Building Act 2004. On the basis of this information, local authorities should have a good understanding of the earthquake-prone heritage buildings in their districts.

Local authorities will not be ‘starting from scratch’ in preparing a heritage schedule. Consequently, the following guidance is designed for reviewing and updating existing heritage schedules. This section covers: 


  • Planning the process and objectives
    • Plan carefully how owners of heritage places will be consulted. This includes owners of currently scheduled places and newly identified places. Owners should not ‘find out about a heritage identification process when someone from the council comes to take a photo’!
    • Consider how the wider community, including heritage groups, will be informed, consulted and able to participate.
    • Examine the option of a state of the historic environment report approach to begin with. This may include a desktop study and a sample survey of scheduled heritage places to find out about current risks and conditions. This can be expanded into a plan effectiveness evaluation for the heritage provisions.
    • Plan the process to establish heritage priorities (i.e. addressing risks and threats, such as redevelopment in key heritage areas).
    • Partner with tangata whenua to determine an appropriate approach to identification and assessment of culturally significant sites and areas. Respect that iwi or hapū may not want sites disclosed, given potential site disturbance and sensitive events that may have occurred there (in accordance with protection of sensitive information under s42 of the RMA).
    • Allocate realistic time and resources - ask other local authorities what they did and how much time/cost was involved.
    • Recognise that some aspects of heritage management are specialised tasks, especially with regards to the preparation of statements of significance. Engage professionals as required (Heritage New Zealand may be able to assist with contacting heritage professionals).
  • Establishing a historic heritage framework

A framework for identifying historic heritage will be an information management system. This can be a GIS-based system or other similar database method. The framework will include a system that manages: 

    • Basic information: name, address, property id, heritage status
    • Extent of place boundaries on GIS
    • Structures or items within the place that do not contribute towards significance (for example, a 1970s ‘Skyline’ garage)
    • Change of ownership
    • Statement of significance
    • Significance status (ie, Group A item)
    • Condition, risks and threats
    • Regulatory and non-regulatory approaches – funding assistance, conservation plan status, incentives, rules
    • Interactions with owners, public inquiries and consenting history
    • Council monitoring history.

The framework will include an approach for mapping heritage places. When mapping heritage places, the appropriate mapping method should be matched with the location and type of place being mapped. For practical issues be guided by good examples and ask around for what works. Consider the following:

    • Map heritage places such as trees, buildings, and objects on plan maps, supported by a schedule in the plan. Attempt to show accurate placement of the mark, possibly using grid references or aerial photos. Account for scale in dealing with large sites and consider blow-up insets if needed to pinpoint a place.
    • Recognise the spatial arrangement and interconnectedness of certain places by designating them as areas and precincts. Depict these on maps using boundary notations or shading.
    • If not already using a GIS system as the basis for the plan maps, flag places on the GIS system so they come up during the enquiry process for the particular property (for example, the PIM and LIM).

When mapping sites, recognise the whole site not just part of the site. Consider, for instance, a building's setting or garden.

    • Map areas of known archaeological value and archaeological sites, particularly data derived from the NZ Archaeological Association site recording scheme upgrade project. Awareness of sites is most important and in some cases alternative non-statutory mapping systems may be appropriate.
    • Alert layers (identifying and mapping of geographic areas with a strong likelihood of extant sites) are one method of addressing the problem of unknown archaeological sites.


  • Ensure compliance with the Privacy Act 1993

As noted above, the majority of heritage places are in private ownership. A great deal of care is required to ensure personal information is appropriately managed in compliance with the Privacy Act 1993. In terms of the information privacy principles of the Privacy Act, management processes will need to ensure:

    • Private information, including names and property addresses are not provided to the public without permission of owners;
    • Photographs of private residential houses are not taken without permission of owners;
    • Private information, including photographs, are not posted on council websites or provided to the public without permission; and
    • Information sensitive to tangata whenua is carefully managed and permission is obtained from iwi and hapū prior to the public release of information.

Managing personal information will require the preparation and use of appropriate permission forms and the tracking of these permissions in council GIS. Historical information and photographs which is being used by council in the public domain without permission should be removed.

  • Use criteria and categorisation for identification

Heritage criteria provides for a set of values for the assessment of heritage significance. Criteria should be based on the definition of historic heritage under the RMA. In addition to heritage values (historic, cultural and physical), local authorities should provide guidance on the use of thresholds such as rarity/uniqueness, association and integrity.

The heritage values and thresholds will give an indication of significance. Heritage significance is often understood at a local or district level or at a national or international level. Categorisation should be kept simple with the use of two categories (Group A and Group B) reflecting local/national significance. Many 2nd Generation district plans are adopting more simple methods of categorisation in heritage schedules.

For Māori heritage and significant archaeological sites, categorisation has not generally been adopted. The risk, however, of non-categorisation is that highly significant places may not receive the same levels of protection in district plans. Tangata whenua should be closely involved in decisions about categorisation.

Criteria and categorisation should align with criteria for the identification and classification of historic places to be entered onto the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero (Heritage NZ Pouhere Taonga Act 2014; section 66).

While there are some differences in the definition of historic heritage under the RMA and the criteria for inclusion in the Heritage New Zealand List/Rārangi Kōrero, essentially the same types of heritage places can be identified.

  • Gather and review existing information

All relevant existing information should be identified and reviewed at the beginning of the project. This stage can normally be carried out by the council. It will involve:

    • Identifying and critically reviewing existing district plan heritage inventories. Information may be outdated, and places may have been identified by different criteria to the district plan process. If budget allows, undertake a comprehensive audit of scheduled places.
    • Identifying other previous council inventories and lists.
    • Ensuring that all historic places, areas, wāhi tapu, wāhi tūpuna and wāhi tapu areas entered on the New Zealand Heritage List are included in the schedule.
    • Identifying recorded archaeological sites by the New Zealand Archaeological Association.
    • When preparing regional policy statements, regional plans and district plans, it is required that any iwi authority planning document for any heritage direction, statement or identified sites are taken into account.
    • Obtain local information and research through referring to heritage interest groups, and to publications on heritage places (eg., bridges, railways, churches).
    • Critically review existing information and places as they may have limitations for use in plans.
  • Identifying and recording – Statements of significance
    • Identifying and recording will require the preparation of a statement of significance. A statement of significance provides evidence about the heritage significance of the place or area. It is prepared by a heritage professional.
    • A statement of significance should be prepared for both existing listed heritage places and for newly identified heritage places.
    • In addition to heritage values, the statement of significance should identify the geographical boundaries of the place and items within the place that do not contribute towards significance. This information can be added as an appendix using maps and plans.
    • The statement of significance should clearly record the type of place, age, construction materials and other matters such as potentially earthquake-prone statuses as relevant under the Building Act 2004.
    • For an area, the statement of significance will contain a summary of the values of the place. Street-by-street analysis or individual items within the area should be included as an appendix.
    • Statements of significance can also be prepared for significant archaeological sites and Māori heritage. This approach will require close working relationships with tangata whenua as a joint project and be guided by an iwi management plan. Heritage New Zealand has prepared an iwi management plan guide. This guide informs the preparation and implementation of iwi management plans to assist in the identification and protection of Māori heritage.
    • Draft statements of significance should be provided to owners of heritage places, tangata whenua and other stakeholders for review and input.
  • Finalising the heritage inventory

Following the finalisation of the statements of significance, an inventory of heritage places can be prepared and made available to the public (comprising all of or a summary of the statements of significance).

At this stage, the council needs to decide which places should be added to the district plan heritage schedule, which places require information updating and which places require removal from the heritage schedule. Council also needs to decide which category is appropriate, and whether building interiors are included or excluded.

Section 42 of the RMA sets out a clear process for the protection of sensitive information. Section 42 specifies that local authorities may make an order to determine the need to protect the confidential nature of the information, when weighed against the public interest in making the information available. This provision can apply, for example, to burial grounds, artefacts, Whakapapa, wāhi tapu, ancestral lands, and personal information.

The s42 process occurs by a resolution of council through processes such as a hearing or council meeting. The protection should not be applied as a 'blanket', and requires consideration of each matter on a case-by-case basis.

The process to be followed needs direct reference to s42 and involves:

    1. an application being made to protect the information;
    2. council's consideration of public versus private protection interests; and
    3. a formal order being made to protect, or not and the reasons why.