A Northland man received a $1600 fine after what is being deemed as ‘an honest mistake’ for the removal of historic war artefacts from Ruapekapeka Pa, north of Whangarei.
Te Ruapekapeka Trust and Department of Conservation (DOC) were alerted through comments on Facebook that the man was seen using a metal detector and removing artefacts at Ruapekapeka pa in late January. While the man came forward immediately and returned the items, which were then blessed and returned to Ruapekapeka, DOC contacted him and issued two infringement notices (fines) for failure to comply with the Reserves Act for cutting sod and removal of a relic from a historic site.
“The offender cut approximately 20 holes in the pa and removed a number of artefacts from the site, including parts of an exploded cannonball,” senior heritage advisor, Andrew Blanshard, said.
“While the offender did the right thing in coming forward and immediately returning the items, we have a duty of care to enforce the well-displayed rules to protect our treasured historic sites of which Te Ruapekapeka is one of the best-preserved in the country.
“We hope this fine and the publicity around it will encourage people to check the rules at place carefully before acting. All our conservation heritage sites are protected. DOC takes these incidences very seriously.”
However, DOC says this is not an isolated incident. While heritage sites across the country are at risk from numerous factors, a majority of damage is avoidably caused by people, the organisation said.
“In the past year, numerous heritage sites both on and off public conservation land have been damaged by human activities.
“Even small incidences like vehicles driving across middens can mean that we lose vital information that could, if recorded and investigated correctly, add to our national story,” DOC said.
Sites damaged this year range from middens that are more than 700 years old, pa sites, early European mining sites, and a host of places in between.
DOC’s latest visitor insights report showed that compared with other outdoor sites, visitors to cultural heritage sites were more likely to report ‘a lot’ or ‘a fair amount’ of all types of visitor impacts.
“This all comes at a time when we know that New Zealanders are more engaged than ever with their heritage and wanting to learn more,” said Pita Tipene, interim chair of Te Ruapekapeka Trust.
“We all need to help protect these sites as the stories they can tell us are the building blocks of our national identity.”
The public can report vandalism or damage being caused to heritage sites in conservation areas by calling the DOC HOTline. DOC is working in close partnership with Te Ruapekapeka Trust.
DOC also 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 along with shipwrecks as well.