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Protection of Māori Sacred Sites - Wahi Tapu

The New Zealand Historic Places Trust (Māori: Pouhere Taonga) is a Crown Entity with membership of around 20,000 people that advocates for the protection of ancestral sites and heritage buildings in New Zealand. It was set up through the Historic Places Act 1954 with a mission to "...promote the identification, protection, preservation and conservation of the historical and cultural heritage of New Zealand" and is an autonomous Crown Entity.


The register of historic places is divided into four main areas:

    Historic Places

    Historic Areas

    Wahi Tapu (Māori sacred sites)

    Wahi Tapu Areas


The Māori Heritage Council sits within the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and was established by the Historic Places Act 1993. The functions of the Council include:


* the protection and registration of wahi tapu and wahi tapu areas

* assisting the Trust to develop and reflect a bicultural view in the exercise of its powers and functions

* providing assistance to whanau, hapu and Iwi in the preservation and management of their heritage resources

* consideration of recommendations in relation to archaeological sites

* advocacy of the interests of the Trust and Council so far as they relate to Māori heritage at any public or Māori forum.


~ Wikipedia on New Zealand Historic Places Trust



Tapuwae articulates a vision for Māori heritage as it is understood by NZHPT's Māori Heritage Council. This is a practical, pragmatic vision grounded in kaitiakitanga and informed by the nation’s legal and political environment. This vision statement is intended to guide the work of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. It will assist the NZHPT in its activities in relation to Māori heritage and communicates the Māori Heritage Council’s aspirations regarding to the identification, protection, preservation, conservation and advancement of Māori heritage.


Indigenous heritage is New Zealand’s heritage. Places of Māori heritage are taonga of New Zealand. Māori heritage places are treasures, taonga, a distinctive and unique dimension within New Zealand heritage overall. Tapuwae is a contribution to a developing sense of nationhood that takes pride in its indigenous heritage, places, wider landscapes and the value systems associated with them.


Tapuwae means ‘footprint’. The term symbolises the footprint on the landscape of Māori land-based and built heritage. It is used it to communicate the idea that we can look back to where we have been as we move forward, taking more steps.


~ New Zealand Historic Places Trust



Landcare Research New Zealand Ltd is presently working with a number of Māori organizations to develop classification systems and frameworks that describe and organize various types and forms of Māori values information for storage and analysis using GIS tools. Methods are being developed to take into account traditional Māori beliefs, information sensitivity as well as confidentiality. Before entering data into a GIS, information is organized into eight main groups from the general classification .... Based on these main groups, a more detailed Māori values classification has been developed to include:


* historic places, and tribal landmarks

* ancestral sites

* archaeological sites

* sacred sites

* indigenous place names

* biophysical resources (landforms, soils, vegetation types, etc)

* biodiversity (remnant indigenous forest, ecological systems,etc)

* traditional food gathering sites

* special plants for weaving and medicines


~ Landcare Research New Zealand Ltd



The Register online includes entries for registered historic places and historic areas,

but not for those registered as wahi tapu.































Māori values and GIS: the New Zealand experience







Waymarking Māori heritage sites

Links ...

Historic Places Trust Wikipedia Maori values and GIS Protecting Maori Heritage Tapuwae publication Tapuwae cover Waymarking