New Zealand / Te Ao Māori

Charges laid over vineyard on Wairau Bar archaeological site

14:31 pm on 8 June 2020

Two people have been charged in relation to a vineyard built at Wairau Bar, an archaeological site, in Blenheim.

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

The charges were filed in the Blenheim District Court last week, on 3 June, by Heritage New Zealand following its investigation late last year into whether a vineyard at Wairau Bar modified or destroyed archaeological sites.

Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga chief executive Andrew Coleman said the archeological significance of the Wairau Bar was well-known, and it is believed to be one of the earliest Māori settlements.

"It's got urupā, it's got burial ground, there are lots of other archaeological features right across the Wairau Bar," Coleman said.

"I think if you talk to anyone, certainly in the top of the South - Rangitāne - the significance of Wairau is not lost on them."

He said no authority was obtained from Heritage New Zealand before the vineyard works were undertaken.

Coleman said it was an easy process to obtain an archaeological authority, and he encouraged anyone who was digging in the land to discuss proposals with them first.

"We want everyone who is developing, digging [or] unsettling the land of New Zealand to understand that a lot of New Zealand's history is below the ground and subject to an archaeological authority."

Four Blenheim iwi have also lodged an appeal in the Environment Court over the hundreds of unregistered archaeological sites at Wairau Bar that are not included in the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan.