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The proposed site consists of cones and other geological features of volcanic origin in urban Auckland and rural south Auckland.
This serial site is proposed as a Mixed Cultural and Natural Heritage Site.
Sites of cultural value include the iconic cones of Maungawhau/Mount Eden, Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill, Maungarei/Mount Wellington, and Te Pane o Mataaho/Mangere Mountain, and the remarkable Otuataua stonefield gardens complex. Sites of natural value include the Rangitoto shield and scoria caves, the Ihumatao fossil forest and the Wiri lava cave.
The Auckland Isthmus and region have been the scene of a series of basaltic volcanic eruptions over the past 250 000 years resulting in a field covering approximately 100 km2, including approximately 50 eruption centres with scoria cones and maar craters and 8000 ha of lava flow fields. All of the eruptions were short-lived, and each volcano, or cluster of vents, was the product of a single eruptive episode. The last eruption, of Rangitoto, occurred about 600 years ago. The volcanic cones dominate the wider views of the Auckland landscape.
The resources afforded by the cones supported a long period of Maori settlement, use and occupation. Each cone was surrounded by large areas of rich volcanic soils providing extensive gardens. Most were modified by Maori and have had their slopes and summits modified by digging, to form terraces, ditches, banks, and pits, for living, gardening and defence, forming a significant cultural landscape.
Some cones in the Auckland region have been modified in recent times or destroyed for extraction of scoria for construction. The cones included in this nomination are relatively intact, and have survived due to their iconic status and their protection as public reserves.
The two stonefield sites, Otuataua and Matukutureia, are both remnants of the former extensive stone-walled garden and settlement sites located within the volcanic landscape.
Although not unique as a collection of small basaltic scoria cones and maar craters, the Auckland field has an unusual diversity of features. Represented are a full range of vents and explosion craters, right up to evolved cones and lava shields.
As natural features, many of the Auckland Volcanic Field sites proposed for nomination have been modified by human activity over time. The majority of the modifications stem from pre-European Maori occupation. Modern urban development has also impacted on the scoria cones, through quarrying for roading and other construction, and as sites for infrastructure facilities. In some cases cones and tuff rings have been obliterated altogether. Urban Auckland has been built over the majority of the original lava flow fields and some of the explosion craters and tuff rings. However, the cones, lava flow fields, maars and other geological features included in this proposal all possess a high degree of integrity.
World Heritage criteria and guidelines recognise that no site can be pristine if it has been occupied and modified by people. This very modification, reflecting human interaction with the landscape, is of the essence of the qualities that make up outstanding universal heritage value.
Collectively, the volcanic cones and stonefields have high integrity and authenticity as a serial Cultural and Natural Heritage site.
Legal protection for the nominated sites is of a satisfactory level, as all are publicly owned and most are Crown Land. The majority are managed by local authorities subject to the provisions of the Reserves Act 1977, which requires that significant heritage features be conserved.
Regional management strategies and plans have also been developed.
Future threats to the proposed sites are minimised by their status and management. However, there are still problems in safeguarding earthworks and other features from impacts of human visitors, infrastructure demands, and stock grazing. The management of such large and complex sites will continue to present challenges to managing authorities. World Heritage status would help greatly in acknowledging the value of these places and meeting the challenges of ongoing protection.
There is no other complex of volcanic cones in New Zealand with a similar range of site types, span of ages, and such a wide-ranging set of multiple iwi (tribal) and community associations.
Particularly notable for its cultural values is Maungakiekie / One Tree Hill. It is one of the most extensively terraced and heavily fortified of Auckland's cones and one of the most extensive pre-European archaeological site complexes in New Zealand.
The only other comparable New Zealand archaeological volcanic field site, in the inland Bay of Islands, has impressive cone pa, but lacks the range of features of the Auckland field. It is on privately owned land so lacks the protected status of the Auckland cones. There are other sites on volcanic cones in the Bay of Plenty and south Waikato, and stonefield gardens on volcanic landforms in the eastern Bay of Plenty, but they are not as extensive and do not constitute such impressive field monuments as the overall Auckland complex. Elsewhere in New Zealand there are similar assemblages of fortifications in different classes of landform, e.g. on terrace lands in North Taranaki and on the Kaikoura Peninsula.
In the wider region of Polynesia (including the Pacific) there are similar earthwork fortifications on many islands including Rapa (Polynesie Francaise), Samoa, Tonga and Fiji. Some large assemblages of fortifications such as those of the Rewa River valley (Fiji) have a similar range of large earthworks.
Around the world there are a dozen or so relatively young basalt volcanic fields similar to the Auckland one. Some in Europe are modified and built over like the Auckland field. Others have been less modified by humans and have a different combination of features. Some are in more arid areas and are less weathered, and also less visited than the Auckland field (e.g. Harrat Shaam Field in Jordan and Saudi Arabia; Zuni and Craters of the Moon Fields in the western USA). None has the combination of young volcanic landforms and extensive archaeological remains of a civilisation that depended on the rich volcanic soils and scoria cones for defence. It is this integrated combination of pre-European Maori occupation relying on the natural resources of a young and still active volcanic field that is outstanding on the world stage.