Ngati Tuwharetoa Paramount Chief to lead NZ bid for election to World Heritage Committee

  • Sandra Lee
Maori Affairs

Conservation Minister Sandra Lee has announced that Tumu Te Heuheu, Ngati Tuwharetoa's paramount chief, will lead New Zealand's formal bid for a seat on the World Heritage Committee in 2003.

¡§This will be New Zealand's first attempt to secure a place on the 21-member Committee which is responsible for implementing the World Heritage Convention," Ms Lee said.

"The Convention commits countries signing it to the protection of their own natural and cultural heritage, and they are also encouraged to nominate sites within their borders for designation as World Heritage sites.

"The World Heritage Committee makes the final decision on whether an area is worthy of becoming a World Heritage site, as a result of having either cultural or natural heritage merit of 'outstanding universal value'.

"We have sounded out nations that share our interests and views on a range of conservation and environmental issues and received an encouraging response on what support we might receive."

The Conservation Minister said seven seats were due to be vacated at the end of the 32nd session of the general conference of UNESCO, which will meet in Paris in 2003. New Zealand would seek one of these, and if elected, would hold the seat for six years.

Ms Lee said Tumu Te Heuheu had earlier led an international initiative to develop a council of experts drawn from indigenous peoples to guide the management of World Heritage sites so that their ancestral heritage values were recognised.

"Tumu Te Heuheu's selection to lead the bid also recognises his family¡¦s long interest and commitment to World Heritage conservation values," she said.

¡§The generosity and foresight of his great grandfather Horonuku Te Heuheu Tukino, who gifted the central portion of today¡¦s Tongariro National Park to the Crown in 1887, has given every visitor the opportunity to enjoy the outstanding values of this area.

¡§I am confident that Tumu Te Heuheu can make a valuable contribution to this committee and assist New Zealand in showcasing the way we are working with the community and iwi to manage our World Heritage sites,¡¨ Ms Lee said.

New Zealand has three World Heritage sites. They are
„h Tongariro National Park, selected because of its natural and also because of its cultural values;
„h Te Wahipounamu - South West New Zealand, selected for its natural values; and
„h New Zealand's sub-Antarctic islands (Auckland, Campbell, the Antipodes and Bounty groups, and the Snares islands), also selected for their natural values.

The World Heritage Committee comprises 21 representatives of the 164 state parties to the World Heritage Convention. The World Heritage Convention was established in 1972 and New Zealand joined in 1984.

A country becomes a state party by signing the World Heritage Convention and pledging to protect its cultural and natural heritage. New Zealand¡¦s state party representation under the World Heritage Convention is managed by the Department of Conservation.