Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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"The Art of the Achievable": An Examination of Heritage Assessment Practice at the Department of Conservation

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posted on 2021-11-13, 23:23 authored by Wilson, Kayla

This dissertation examines heritage assessment at the New Zealand Department of Conservation. It explores the heritage assessment process through two central research questions: ‘What is the state of current heritage assessment at the Department of Conservation?’ and ‘What place and form could heritage assessments have and take in future practice at the Department of Conservation?’ Responding to a gap in the literature and lack of critical analysis of the heritage assessment procedure in the New Zealand context, the research considers the ways in which heritage assessment is carried out and examines heritage assessment as a tool through which heritage is understood and assigned value and significance. The timeliness of this work is highlighted by the currently few existing evaluations providing a critical analysis of the heritage assessment procedure in New Zealand.  This research employs an interdisciplinary theoretical framework developed from the literature of heritage studies and its related fields, in particular history and archaeology. This study is framed with reference to the postmodern theoretical paradigm of ‘authorised heritage discourse’ and critical realism, and employs a mixed method approach to the research, and employs documentary analysis and interviews with current staff working with historic heritage at the Department of Conservation.  The main finding emerging from this research is that heritage assessment is an essential, if not pivotal, but under-utilised element of heritage management, and that appropriate outcomes for heritage can only be reached through a more effective heritage assessment framework. The dissertation concludes that currently the Department of Conservation heritage assessment framework fails to achieve this to a suitable standard, makes several recommendations for change, and argues that it is only by addressing the situation DOC will be able to deliver maximum outcomes for heritage in an increasingly resource-constrained environment – and continue to accomplish sustainable heritage management, what one respondent called ‘the art of the achievable’.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Museum and Heritage Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

950311 Wahi Taonga (Māori Places of Significance)

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies


McCarthy, Conal; Schroeder, Sven