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Draft (revised) accidental archaeological discovery specification

P45 will replace the existing Z/22. (external link) The development of this specification has been informed by experts in archaeological and cultural heritage processes.

Final changes to this revised specification are now being made following consultation in September 2016. Our thanks to all our stakeholders, consultants and staff who gave valuable feedback.

We propose to finalise this document through the NZ Transport Agency’s internal quality assurance processes in early 2017.

About the Specification for managing accidental archaeological discoveries (P45)

Travel pathways from the earliest times to modern day roads have tended to follow the same routes providing a literal footprint in the ground of where and how people have lived in New Zealand for over 800 years.

These archaeological sites are an important historic record that is non-renewable, so it is important that the Transport Agency has protocols and procedures to avoid damage to them. Archaeological and other heritage sites bring local and national stories to life and can make a significant contribution to tourism and regional economic development.

With more than 60,000 recorded archaeological sites in New Zealand there is a high chance of finding additional sites or material evidence during earthworks. While every effort is made to avoid known archaeological sites during project planning, earthworks often carry the potential for accidental or unanticipated discoveries. Such discoveries may include koiwi (human remains), artefacts (including taonga tuturu) or midden (piles of shell/fish or bird bone/charcoal), hangi/umu (oven), storage pits, early building foundations and wells. These features may be of Maori or non-Maori origin.

All archaeological sites are protected by the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 (external link) . Sites may not be damaged or destroyed unless an Authority to modify an archaeological site has been issued by Heritage New Zealand. Taonga tuturu are also protected under the Protected Objects Act 1975 (external link) and there are procedures in place that provide for interim and long term ownership of these objects.

Archaeological sites with Maori cultural associations have particular significance and meaning to the iwi, hapu and whanau within whose rohe they are located. Management of Maori archaeological sites should involve tangata whenua to ensure that cultural, spiritual and traditional values are identified, recognised and provided for.

An accidental discovery specification refers to those situations where a professional assessment deemed the potential for archaeological material to be low, and an archaeological authority was not required. Where an archaeological authority is in place for a project corridor, accidental discoveries will be covered by the conditions within that authority from Heritage New Zealand.

The key users of this protocol are likely to be:

  • Project managers
  • Planners
  • Project archaeologists
  • Kaitiaki- RMA advisers
  • Engagement specialists
  • Environmental technical specialists
  • Environmental managers
  • Maintenance contract managers
  • Contractors
  • Project consultants

P45 replaces the earlier standard Z/22 (external link) . P45 reflects the minimum requirements of the Transport Agency in accordance with statutory obligations under the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 (external link) and the Protected Objects Act 1975. (external link)

Drivers for the revised specification include the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 (external link) (which replaced the Historic Places Act 1993) and revised guidelines released by Heritage New Zealand for the handling of koiwi (human remains). The procedures contained in P45 are also designed to recognise and provide for the protection of cultural and historic heritage and the special relationship of Māori in regard to their land, water, sites, wahi tapu and other taonga.

The Transport Agency is committed to acting in an environmentally and socially responsible manner and the specification for accidental archaeological discoveries helps us to deliver on this.

Having a standard specification for accidental archaeological discoveries also provides clarity of expectations for our customers and for our staff/suppliers and a nationally consistent approach on state highway projects.  This specification forms part of the NZ Transport Agency State Highway Environmental and Social Responsibility Standard (external link) .

Questions and answers

Why has the Transport Agency prepared this specification?

The Specification for managing accidental archaeological discoveries (P45) documents how to deal with archaeological remains, taonga or koiwi if they are unexpectedly found during project work when an archaeological authority was not required. This covers how to secure the site, who to contact including the Heritage NZ regional archaeologist, the NZ Police and appropriate iwi representative, who to talk to about continuing works outside the find area, and how permission to continue works will be granted.

Why has this draft specification been released for public comment?

We are now seeking feedback to ensure this specification is accurate, practical, efficient and effective. In particular, comment is sought from project archaeologists, planning professionals, and environmental managers working in the transport sector. Following consultation P45 will become the agreed specification for all archaeological significant accidental discovery events on Transport Agency projects.

What is an accidental discovery protocol?

An accidental discovery protocol is the process to be followed in the event that an unexpected finding is made during project work. Accidental discovery protocols exist for a range of environmental impacts including archaeological and land contamination. For archaeological sites an accidental discovery protocol only applies in situations where no Authority has been issued under the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014.

What is an archaeological site?

An archaeological site is defined in the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 (external link) 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.

Archaeological features and remains can take the form of burnt and fire cracked stones, charcoal, rubbish heaps including shell, bone and/or 19th century glass and crockery, ditches, banks, pits, old building foundations, artefacts of Maori and early European origin, or human burials. 

What is an archaeological accidental discovery?

In any area where archaeological sites have been recorded in the general vicinity and even in cases where they have not, it is possible that unrecorded archaeological sites are present below the ground surface and may be exposed by earthworks. If an archaeological site is exposed, and no authority has been issued by Heritage New Zealand, the Accidental Discovery Specification (P45) must be followed.

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