Kōrero - General Discussion
Historic and cultural heritage is an important part of New Zealand's environment and identity. The Commission for the Environment (PCfE 1996) recently wrote in a report entitled “Historic and Cultural Heritage Management in New Zealand” that the system for management and protection of historic and cultural heritage as a whole is performing poorly, is very reactive, is poorly resourced, lacks integrated strategic planning, and appears to fall short of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. There is a significant policy gap at national and regional levels, and a lack of Government commitment to the protection of historic and cultural heritage. Further, the relevant duties, resoponsibilites, and accountabilites of the different agencies involved in management and protection are not always transparent or well defined. The key issue is the effectiveness of the RMA to sustain historic and cultural values. Without some form of strategy to identify these values and then provide some form of protection or appropriate management, these values will be lost forever.
Consequently, the permanent loss of all types of historic and cultural heritage continues at an alarming rate. For example, in the Auckland metropolitan area, over 50% of significant pā have been extensively modified or destroyed since city development began; less than 2.5% of original stonefields, areas that also contain wāhi tapu, and areas regarded as significant to tangata whenua remain (PCfE 1996). Of known archaeological sites in the Auckland region, 6% were destroyed or modified between 1979 and 1994 (PCfE 1996). A 1993 archaeological site survey in the lower Hauraki Plains showed that 40-45% of all archaeological sites (70% of all midden sites) had been destroyed as a result of the Waihou Valley Scheme (PCfE 1996). In the Canterbury region, 40% of all sites in the hill country and 70% elsewhere had been destroyed or damaged (PCfE 1996). With greater intensification and urbanisation of land, and increasing forestry land-uses, the issue of protection of heritage sites is likely to become more contentious. Although modification and damage is unavoidable in certain circumstances, these figures do give some weight to the reality that integrated management needs to take Māori value sites into account more effectively.
From a Māori point of view, there are increasing concerns around the country related to the modification and destruction of wāhi tapu, ancestral sites or special places, important archaeological sites, and other sites regarded as taonga. Māori values information needs to be integrated into planning at all levels. At the hapū level, it is estimated that less than 10% of Māori heritage and archaeological information are presently recorded in any form of database, such as the New Zealand Archaeological Association file or Historic Places Trust registe,r which have traditionally been heavily relied upon by local authorities.
Organisations involved in research, planning, and policy development for protection of cultural and historic sites need to become more coordinated. A coordinated strategy at national, regional, and local level is urgently required to improve the present approaches, systems and methods available to record and store information on Māori values and Mātauranga Māori and to set priorities for this type of work. It is hoped that initiatives being undertaken in this project, and others like it, will lead to a greater community awareness and understanding of what Māori values are and where they are, to a commitment to more pro-active planning, and to the development of more positive attitudes to Māori values in planning and policy.