Take only photos and leave only footprints on cultural heritage sites

Prior to the recent COVID-19 outbreak which saw the region and the country under Alert Level restrictions, DOC staff found four unusual holes at Pukerangiora Pā in North Taranaki.

Situated high above the Waitara River, Pukerangiora Pā is a site of both local and national importance. The historic reserve is in the rōhe of Pukerangiora hapū of Te Atiawa, and co-managed in partnership with the DOC.

It’s thought the small spade holes – found by a DOC staff member at the entrance of the pā – were dug by people using metal detectors to fossick for colonial items due to the site’s history as a battlefield during the Taranaki Wars.

It is likely the visitor was looking for artefacts such as musket balls and military buttons says DOC Senior Ranger Dave Rogers.

“We have received reports of people with metal detectors at Pukerangiora Pā in the past. DOC wants to remind visitors it is an offence under the Conservation Act as well as Heritage New Zealand / Pouhere Taonga Act to dig up a historic archaeological site and people can face prosecution and a fine if caught doing so.”

Pukerangiora hapū hold the role of kaitiaki in their rohe and includes the protection of Pukerangiora Pā.

“The Pā is a wāhi tapū and as kaitiaki we have the responsibility to ensure appropriate tikanga is followed at the Pā due to the significance of this site for the hapū and iwi,” says Pukerangiora hapū Chairman Anaru White. “This site is important in our history and we all need to help protect it.”

Metal detecting is a growing concern at heritage sites, particularly those relating to the colonial-era wars. Any excavation at a heritage site without the appropriate approvals is an offence and an issue DOC takes seriously, says DOC Senior Heritage Advisor Cathryn Barr.

“There is clear evidence at Pukerangiora Pā of someone having gone in and dug holes – we are assuming metal detectorists which is an illegal activity”.

If you see vandalism or damage being caused to heritage sites in conservation areas, DOC is asking people to call the DOC hotline (0800 362 468).

Background information

Digging up archaeological sites is a legal offence under the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014, which can lead to prosecution and a criminal record.

DOC manages the largest cultural heritage portfolio in the country, with more than 13,000 known archaeological and historic sites located on public conservation lands and waters (we manage shipwrecks as well).

We care for the places that shaped New Zealand and tell our stories so that you can discover, enjoy and share them now and for generations to come.

Protected as a historic reserve since 1908, DOC is currently in discussions with Pukerangiora Hapū of Te Atiawa about its aspirations for the future interpretation and visitor opportunities of the Pukerangiora Pā.

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