For disturbing a shell midden at Maketu the Western Bay of Plenty District Council is fined $6500 and ordered to pay $2500 in costs.
The council was sentenced by Judge Louis Bidois in the Tauranga District Court on Thursday after it plead guilty earlier to unlawfully modifying and damaging archaeological features at Maketu in 2009.
The charge was brought by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust which says the council should have know the midden was there, having earlier commissioned an archaeologist to review the archaeology of Maketu, with a report produced in 2003.
The crime was committed in June or July 2009, says NZ Historic Places Trust heritage adviser John O’Hare.
“What they were doing was part of an urbanisation project to widen the carriageway and manage storm water in Te Awhe Road,” says John.
“They were widening the road and they damaged shell remains from a midden.
“It’s not something you can do without an archaeological authority from the trust.”
The Western Bay of Plenty is well known as an area of great archaeological sensitivity, containing hundreds of recorded and unrecorded archaeological sites – with some dating back to early human settlement,” says the NZHPT senior archaeologist Dr Rick McGovern-Wilson.
“The NZHPT has invested significant time over a number of years training council staff and their planning and engineering consultants about the Act’s archaeological provisions and we felt prosecution was appropriate in this case.”
There have been more discussions with the Western Bay of Plenty District Council and its contractors to prevent similar situations happening again, says Rick.
“The Western Bay of Plenty District Council has owned up to its mistake and pleaded guilty to illegally damaging the archaeological features at Maketu, though obviously we’re disappointed that this damage happened in the first place,” says Rick
“The council is clearly willing to do better, and there is no doubt it is aware of the processes it needs to put in place to ensure no further breaches occur.”
The fine was at the lower end of the scale appropriate for the circumstances, says
Western Bay Mayor Ross Paterson.
It was a first offence by the council and he says it has taken remedial steps and cooperated with the Historic Places Trust.
“We recognise that Maketu is a culturally significant area and has a lot of history of Maoridom, and is one of the landing places of the canoes,” says Ross.
“We acknowledge that there was an oversight made on our part.
“We thought our suppliers had obtained all the consents and authorities, but so be it – we are now looking at our processes to see that it doesn’t ever happen again.”
The Historic Places Act (HPA) 1993 defines an archaeological site as a place associated with pre-1900 human activity, including shipwrecks, where there may be evidence relating to the history of New Zealand that can be investigated using archaeological methods.
The HPA makes it unlawful for any person to destroy, damage or modify the whole or any part of an archaeological site without prior NZHPT authority. This is the case regardless of whether the land on which the site is located is designated, or the activity is permitted under the District or Regional Plan or a resource or building consent has been granted. The HPA also provides for substantial penalties for unauthorised destruction, damage or modification.
The type of work requiring an archaeological authority prior to work commencing could include, amongst other things: earthworks for forestry tracks, planting and harvesting; earthworks for residential developments, including building platforms, topsoil stripping and access ways; earthworks for stock races or farm tracks, fencing or landscaping; trenching for telephone, power, and waste disposal; road construction; quarrying and building demolition or removal.