Handbook on the Law of Cultural Heritage and International Trade

Handbook on the Law of Cultural Heritage and International Trade

Research Handbooks on Globalisation and the Law series

Edited by James A.R. Nafziger and Robert Kirkwood Paterson

This Handbook offers a collection of original writings by leading scholars and practitioners in the exciting, rapidly developing field of cultural heritage law. The detailed essays are the product of a multi-year project of the Committee on Cultural Heritage Law of the International Law Association.

Chapter 14: New Zealand

Piers Davies and Paul Myburgh

Subjects: law - academic, cultural heritage and art law, international economic law, trade law


New Zealand's historical experience has largely involved the exportation or theft of its own treasures, rather than the importation of other peoples' treasures. However, there is a growing realisation that, at least insofar as the South Pacific is concerned, New Zealand was also an overly enthusiastic collector of the treasures of other, particularly indigenous, peoples. Apart from the South Pacific, New Zealand does not have a significant history of importing artefacts, pieces of art or sculpture that have been stolen or illegally excavated, or are of doubtful provenance. New Zealand was very slow to ratify and implement the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. When it did so, it took the opportunity to ratify the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects at the same time. New Zealand was the first Common Law jurisdiction to ratify both Conventions and to attempt a parallel implementation of them into its domestic law. New Zealand's tardiness in this regard is symptomatic of a more general lack of speedy domestic implementation of international cultural conventions, with a limited number of available government officials and the comparatively low priority accorded to international cultural heritage. The Protected Objects Act 1975 (POA) was passed by the New Zealand Parliament in 2006. The POA completely stripped and overhauled an existing statute known as the Antiquities Act 1975, apparently explaining why the POA has been backdated to 1975.

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