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More protection for cultural objects in new Bill

3 February 2005 Media Statement

More protection for cultural objects in new Bill

Proposed legislation to give better protection for cultural objects and assist in securing their return from overseas where they have been illegally exported was introduced to Parliament today by Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Judith Tizard.

“This Amendment Bill enables New Zealand to participate in the UNESCO and UNIDROIT Conventions for the return of stolen and illegally exported cultural objects,” said Judith Tizard.

“Important New Zealand objects have been illegally exported in the past, objects which reflect the identity of peoples, their times and lives, and by being party to these Conventions we will have an internationally-established framework through which to secure their return in the future."

The Protected Objects Amendment Bill will significantly increase the penalties for breaches of the Act and introduces a penalty for wilful damage or destruction of objects for which export permission has been sought or refused.

At present, fines under the Act range from $500 to $2,000. The Amendment Bill has a maximum penalty for serious offences of up to five years in prison, and fines of up to $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for bodies corporate.

Judith Tizard said the Amendment Bill also improves administrative processes to ensure that ownership can be established for taonga tuturu (Mâori objects) that are recovered during archaeological investigations or found by chance.

“This aspect of the Bill will significantly increase the instances of traditional ownership being established for found Mâori objects,” Judith Tizard said.

"Our Government is committed to strengthening its historic and cultural heritage. It is important for us and for future generations that government provides ongoing leadership and support for New Zealand's cultural objects."

It is anticipated that the Bill will have its first reading shortly and then will then be referred to the Government Administration Select Committee for consideration. The Committee will call for public submissions on the Bill.

ENDS

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