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Exporting protected New Zealand moveable objects, including taonga tūturu, is restricted and requires the permission of our Chief Executive.  

An assessment must be made to determine if an object is a protected New Zealand object before it is exported. You should apply if your object is more than 50 years old and could fall under any of the nine categories of protected objects.

What we do

We administer the Protected Objects Act 1975 (formerly known as the Antiquities Act). 

Protected Objects Act 1975 (NZ Legislation)

The Act regulates: 

  • the export of protected New Zealand objects 
  • the illegal export of protected New Zealand
  • The illegal import of protected foreign cultural objects
  • the sale, trade and ownership of taonga tūturu, including what to do if you find a taonga or Māori artefact. 

The Act also incorporates the UNESCO Convention 1970 and the UNIDROIT Convention. You can read the Act on the New Zealand legislation website. Details about our enforcement and prosecution policy for this Act are available on our legislation webpage. 

Our legislation

Taonga tūturu are protected objects that whakapapa to Te Ao Māori and embody mana, tapu and mauri.  You can read more about them on the Taonga tūturu page. 

Taonga tūturu 

Protected New Zealand objects 

Under the Act, there are nine categories of protected New Zealand objects. Protected objects are objects that are more than 50 years old and with some association with, or significance for, New Zealand. The categories are: 

  1. archaeological, ethnographic and historical objects of non-New Zealand origin, relating to New Zealand 
  2. art objects including fine, decorative and popular art 
  3. documentary heritage objects 
  4. nga taonga tūturu 
  5. natural science objects 
  6. New Zealand archaeological objects 
  7. numismatic and philatelic objects 
  8. science, technology, industry, economy and transport objects 
  9. social history objects. 

A detailed description of the categories is available in Schedule 4 of the Protected Objects Act.

Schedule 4 of the Protected Objects Act (NZ Legislation)

Contact us if you are unsure if the object you have is regulated by the Protected Objects Act.

Email us: 

[email protected]

Export restrictions 

Before a protected New Zealand object, including taonga tūturu, can be exported from New Zealand, either temporarily or permanently, our Chief Executive must give their permission. 

Under the Protected Objects Act, export means: 

  • placed on board any craft for transportation to a point outside New Zealand, or 
  • taken into a Customs-controlled area or Customs place for removal from New Zealand, or 
  • delivered as a postal article into the control of a postal service provider for removal from New Zealand. 

Penalties for breaches of export provisions 

Under the Protected Objects Act, the illegal export, or attempted illegal export, of a protected New Zealand object could result in the object being forfeit to the Crown, a fine of up to $100,000 ($200,000 for a body corporate) or up to five years’ imprisonment. 

Also under the Act, any person who willfully damages or destroys an object that has been refused export permission under this Act could be liable for a fine of up to $10,000 ($20,000 for a body corporate) for each object, or a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years. 

Applying to export a protected object

1. If you are planning to send a protected object overseas, contact us for advice first. As defined above, protected objects are any that fall into one of the nine categories. Generally speaking, these are objects over 50 years old and with some association or significance to New Zealand.

You should contact us even if the objects you wish to export are:

  • your private chattels
  • a gift
  • you are selling or have sold them to an overseas buyer. 

2. Next complete an application form. This same form applies if you are exporting one or multiple objects which are travelling in the same consignment. 

The object’s provenance or history is very important in assessing your application. The more information provided in this question, the easier it will be for experts to consider your application. 


Where possible, include a photograph of the object. In the case of applications to export art works or taonga tūturu, you need to include colour photographs with your application.

If you have any issues uploading images to the online form, you can email these to us at: 

[email protected]

Timeframe for decisions

It can take between 2 and 10 weeks before the Chief Executive makes a decision on the export of the object. Allow for this delay when making your plans.

Assessing the export application 

When we receive an export application, we first consider if the object is a protected New Zealand object, and if it is, if it can be exported from New Zealand. Under the Protected Objects Act, the Chief Executive must consult two or more experts on the export of a protected New Zealand object. 

For an object to be a protected New Zealand object, the object must be: 

  • of importance to New Zealand, or a part of New Zealand, for aesthetic, archaeological, architectural, artistic, cultural, historical, literary, scientific, social, spiritual, technological or traditional reasons, and 
  • fall within one or more of the categories of protected objects set out in Schedule 4 of the Protected Objects Act 1975. 

Experts assess your application

An application to export a protected New Zealand object is considered against criteria which can be found in section 7A of the Act.

Our Chief Executive will consult two or more experts with expertise relevant to the export application. The experts will provide the Chief Executive with written advice and a recommendation on the export. They will consider the following questions: 

Section A

Is the object substantially physically authentic?

  • and made or naturally occurring in New Zealand?
  • or made with New Zealand materials? 
  • or used by New Zealanders? 
  • or related to New Zealand? 

Section B 

Is the object associated with, or representative of, activities, events, ideas, movements, objects, persons or places of importance to New Zealand? 

  • or is the object important to New Zealand for its technical accomplishment or design, artistic excellence, or symbolic, commemorative or research value? 
  • or is the object part of a wider historical, scientific, or cultural collection or assemblage of importance to New Zealand? 

Section C 

Is the object of such significance to New Zealand, or part of New Zealand, that its export from New Zealand would substantially diminish New Zealand’s cultural heritage? 

If the object is not protected

If the object is not a protected New Zealand object, we will issue you with a Letter of Clearance which you can present to Customs. This shows Customs you have submitted an application to us and that the object is not regulated by the Protected Objects Act. 

If the object is protected

If the object is a protected New Zealand object, and export permission is granted, it will need an export certificate issued by us to allow it to be exported temporarily or permanently from New Zealand. 


Application approved

If our Chief Executive approves your application to export a protected New Zealand object, you will be issued an export certificate. You must present this certificate to Customs before the object is exported from New Zealand. Our Chief Executive can also impose conditions on the export. These conditions will be listed on the certificate. 

Application declined

If our Chief Executive declines your application to export a protected New Zealand object, you have the right to appeal their decision within 28 days to the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage.  If the Minister upholds the Chief Executive’s decision, or no appeal is made, the object cannot be permanently exported from New Zealand, and it is automatically included on the Nationally Significant Objects Register. 

Antiquities Act 1975 

On 1 November 2006, the Protected Objects Act came into force, superseding the Antiquities Act 1975.  The name of the Act had to change as the term ‘antiquities’ was replaced with categories of ‘protected objects’.  Many of the principles and regulations of the Antiquities Act remain in the Protected Objects Act. 

UNESCO and UNIDROIT Conventions 

New Zealand’s access to the UNESCO and UNIDROIT Conventions came into force in May 2007. The conventions have increased international protection for New Zealand heritage objects. They also allow New Zealand to recover illegally exported objects, and other signatory countries to recover protected objects illegally exported into New Zealand. 

The UNESCO Convention establishes a framework for international cooperation. This is supplemented by the UNIDROIT Convention which provides for specific legal actions to recover stolen or illegally exported objects. 

UNESCO Convention 

UNIDROIT Convention