The protection of historic heritage from inappropriate subdivision, use and development is a matter of national importance. Historic heritage is defined in the RMA. It means those natural and physical resources that contribute to an understanding and appreciation of New Zealand's history and cultures, deriving from archaeological, architectural, cultural, historic, scientific or technological qualities. Historic heritage includes historic sites, structures, places and areas, archaeological sites, sites of significance to Māori, including wāhi tapu, and surroundings associated with the natural and physical resources. Some activities that are controlled by the Regional Council can have an adverse impact on historic heritage qualities. For example, the discharge of sewage to land or water could have an adverse impact on the historic heritage qualities of a particular site* or structure. The Regional Council can control these activities to avoid, remedy or mitigate adverse effects.

The Region has a long and recognised history and culture, and contains special places such as the Tongariro National Park, Whanganui River, Lake Papaitonga, the wreck of the Hydrabad, historic towns such as Whanganui, Marton, Taihape, Bulls and Raetihi, and many important archaeological sites such as Willis Redoubt, Waiū Pā and Te Āputa Pā. The accurate identification of historic heritage sites* or structures, including the identification of currently “unknown” sites*, is an issue in the Region, as is their protection from potential threats including demolition, “demolition by neglect”, fire, flood and earthworks.

Subdivision and land development can also have a negative effect on historic heritage qualities. This is particularly an issue in coastal areas which are rich in historic heritage, including wāhi tapu* and archaeological sites. Subdivision and land development are controlled by Territorial Authorities.

Along with the Regional Council and Territorial Authorities, a number of other agencies have responsibilities for the identification and management of historic heritage. These agencies include the Heritage New Zealand, the New Zealand Archaeological Association (NZAA) and the Department of Conservation. In particular, the modification of archaeological sites as defined in the Historic Places Act is controlled by the Heritage New Zealand, and a person carrying out any activities that may damage, destroy or modify these sites must have authority from the Heritage New Zealand to do so. The NZAA owns and manages the national database of archaeological records, the Site Recording Scheme.

Decision-makers may refer to the Heritage New Zealand document dated 3 August 2007, Sustainable Management of Historic Heritage Guide No. 1 Regional Policy Statements (pp 12-13), which provides an example of the matters to be considered by local authorities.