Archaeological neglect: council fined

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.

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rubbish dump

Posted on 22-07-2011 13:03 | By Mr bay

fined for disturbing a old rubish dump....sad


Posted on 22-07-2011 13:14 | By Glen Clova

What a joke, a midden is a rubbish dump.I wonder if in 200 years someone digs up the old tip on Cambridge road they will be fined.


Posted on 22-07-2011 13:58 | By RawPrawn

For disturbing some shells? And yet there are babykillers wandering around out there free. What a dismally pathetic little country we are becoming!!!!!!!!!

Archaeological neglect: council fined

Posted on 22-07-2011 23:48 | By wassa

f it we will past the fine off to the rate payer again bloody greenys that money would have been beter spent on real projets


Posted on 23-07-2011 15:08 | By YOGI

they see value in all including someone elses rubbish, of course it creates jobs for the boys, keeps the network going and all that. Part of the bigger plan of course.

Hang on a minute

Posted on 25-07-2011 10:15 | By Edward

I don't understand the tone of these comments. The council has broken the law here, and has been charged accordingly in a court of law. We have laws for reasons afterall. Yes, one can think of a midden as a rubbish dump, but such features are archaeological. They can give us useful scientific information about past cultures and environments. Further, they are finite resources - once they are gone they are gone. Most countries around the world have very similar laws - you cannot just go around bulldozing through a country's heritage without saving as much as you can. England and the US have very similar laws, yet I've not heard of the public there acting the way many NZers do about our heritage (as the commenters here have demonstrated). No one is saying that developments can't go ahead, only that we mitigate development by avoiding or salvaging what we can of the archaeological record. I wouldn't have thought that was a big ask. And if you want to complain about the fine as 'rate payer' money, go and complain to the council - it's the one that broke the law - not archaeologists. As for the comment about heritage legislation while 'baby killers are running free' - a bit hysterial no? Are you honestly saying that countries shouldn't have heritage legislation because homocide exists? I suppose we might extend that to include road laws too? Perhaps food sanitation legislation also? Maybe we should just cancel all laws in NZ and just focus on homicide? Better yet, seen as the same kinds of heritage laws exist in most countries, I'll call up the UK and the US and let them know they should cancel theirs too. As for the 'greenys' which wassa includes to mean all archaeologists - since when? Archaeology is a sicence which stems back to the mid-19th century. If any of you might be interested in actually learning about why such laws exist and what cultural resource management is, you could beging with this article:

First time unintentional offence fined $9000 -just ask yourself

Posted on 28-07-2011 18:42 | By MINDER

EDWARD : so much for the diatribe. A midden is defined in the dictionary as a dunghill or rubbish heap.Pipi shells are a dime a dozen and by themselves prove nothing and are quite insignifiant.NZ Historic Places Trust until 1980s was an august and respected body.However since NZHPT have been indoctrinated with the 'nukarau' the credibility has somewhat diminished.People are becoming sick of this PC cultural crap. An archaeological site indeed- sorry not as we know it Ed.

A lecture about archaeology?

Posted on 29-07-2011 09:44 | By Edward

Thanks for the lecture about archaeology, must have missed that when I was gaining my masters in the subject two years ago. And it's a pity you don't see middens as archaeological features - archaeologists do. Please check these two sites out if you perfer not to believe me (also, the oxford dictionary of archaeology certainly defines midden as an archaeological feature). As for the diatribe? You kinda missed the point about middens I think, and the point I made that development needs to proceed, but it's just a matter of checking sites before they're destroyed. Not too much to ask surely. Yes, it's a rubbish or discard area. But midden here, just like in Europe and everywhere else, is an archaeological site (despite what you think). They may contain other items other than pipi, such as stone tools, chared wood which can be carbon dated, and isotopes which can be analysed to understand past diets or environmental conditions. The amount of midden present can tell us how long a settlment lasted, or whether the areas was visited seasonally. Sometimes middens may not contain useful information (they may have been damaged for example) but this needs to be assessed case by case. Heck, sometimes burials are included, and I doubt anyone wants to bulldoze through human remains. As for the greeny/PC thing which always seems to pop up, I addressed this in the last post. Archaeology is a science which seeks to reconstruct past human behaviours by the material evidence left behind. A midden is an archaeological feature. It is a scientific and cultural material. Archaeologists inviestigate archaeological sites. I fail to see where the PC or Greeny thing comes into it. If you dislike heritage or archaeology, well, that's fine. But societies around the globe have deemed that heritage is important and needs to be protected, investigated, or at least mitigated (i.e. recorded before destroyed). To this end, they have created laws which regulate the destruction of heritage. When you have laws, and a person or organisation breaks those laws, there are penalties. Without penalties what is the point in the law. The council broke the law, and was fined. Not really very controversial. I wish you had actually bothered to look up the link I posted before replying. You would have found all of the information you needed to start with and wouldn't have been sitting here arguing with an archaeologist about what archaeology is. To be honest though, I don't know why I'm bothering. I doubt you'll listen to me or follow any links or advice I provide anyway, probably lumping me in as one of 'them'. But one has to try.

A lecture about archaeology?

Posted on 29-07-2011 09:51 | By Edward

Thanks for educating me on archaeology. As an archaeologist (MA, University of Auckland, 2009), I am unaware of what an archaeological site is, but I'm glad we have you to educate us all. I know I'm "PC" and one of "them", but I thought I'd give you some links to what midden is. I can't be bothered arguing with people like you.

Mountain out of a dunghill

Posted on 31-07-2011 19:59 | By Insider

Edward I think you will find most people have enough trouble living in the present without dwelling on the rather dubious past.I suppose in the next breath you will be telling us that having regard to the huge shell deposits on the hillsides that Mauao is a huge sacred midden. Could I perhaps pose the question if in 500years time someone digs up KFC chicken bones will they think these have cultural or archaeological significance- I think not !!

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