Site Analysis

Understanding all the features of a site, using and protecting the best, and minimising the impact of the worst.

Culture and heritage

Heritage protection is required to preserve the culture, heritage and local character of the country for future generations. Heritage buildings must be maintained and adapted for changing needs such as providing access for people with disabilities or protection from earthquake or fire.

The design and location of the building should also respect the identity of the locality, the scale, the historical context of the area and maintain landscape character.

On this page:

  • legislation
  • local requirements
  • wāhi tapu/sacred sites.


Local authorities are required to contribute to heritage protection under legislation including:

Management strategies for heritage protection are included in strategic directions, policy statements and district plans. Partnerships are sometimes formed between different groups for the preservation of specific sites.

Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act

If you are planning to fully demolish a building built before 1900 or undertake work where any surface excavation could disturb material dating to before 1900 (for example, repiling an 1895 villa), you must first get authority to do the work from Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.

Working on a pre-1900 site may mean having to take extra care around certain features, or co-ordinating work with an archaeologist.

There is more information on the Heritage New Zealand website. Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga has developed a toolkit called Saving the Town which provides guidance around rehabilitating and repurposing historic buildings to enable them to enjoy a commercially viable second life.

Local requirements

Local and regional councils usually have sections on their websites outlining their own rules to preserve local character and protect heritage buildings.
Specific local requirements may include:

  • preservation of historically significant landscape features or archaeological sites
  • building height and position restrictions (especially on ridge lines or prominent sites)
  • preservation of existing natural features (such as native vegetation, significant trees)
  • demolition restrictions (for example, a new building will be subject to current district plan requirements, particularly for setbacks, while a renovated building can be restored utilising the existing setbacks)
  • material use (see also district plan and covenants)
  • specific locality requirements (for example, the special zones contained within the Queenstown Lakes District Plan)
  • colour and glare restrictions (check the district plan).

Some paint companies have special ranges of heritage paint colours for older New Zealand houses.

Wāhi tapu/sacred sites

Aotearoa New Zealand has been settled for around 800 years, and there are many heritage places that have local or special significance to Māori. Heritage places include physical or tangible places such as archaeological sites, and natural and intangible places that are associated with traditional activities or significant events but may have no evidence of human activity.

Heritage places may not be identified on a LIM report, even though they may be known to local people.

If a site is suspected to be a heritage place or have archaeological interest, contact:

A site that is identified as having historical significance may have a heritage covenant attached to the land title. This will impose conditions and restrictions on the land use and development.


Updated: 13 July 2023