The Mayan city of Chichen Itza. The ancient ruins of Babylon in Iraq. The mysterious carved figures of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and the buried Roman city of Pompeii.

To that list of heritage sites which have been turned into highly detailed, digital 3D maps to be shared around the world you can soon add the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in the Bay of Islands.

The mapping is being carried out by US non-profit company CyArk which uses laser scanning, photogrammetry (a combination of photography and surveying) and drone imagery to digitally preserve heritage sites at risk from conflict, climate change or collapse.

In Waitangi's case, however, the company was keen to document a living site for a living culture.


The digital mapping process, which will be paid for by Air New Zealand, will take place over two weeks this summer.

Sites previously mapped by CyArk include Chichen Itza (Mexico), Babylon (Iraq), Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Mt Rushmore (USA) and Pompeii (Italy).

CyArk chairman John Ristevski hoped the data collected on "one of the most important sites in the Pacific" would help bring the Treaty Grounds and New Zealand history to a broader audience.

He expected the data would be available online early next year.

Treaty Grounds chief executive Greg McManus said it was fitting for Waitangi to be chosen for the project because of its importance to all New Zealanders.

"We want to share the story of this amazing place with the world and this project will help achieve that."

It is not the first time Air NZ has worked with the Treaty Grounds. Last summer the airline filmed a hugely popular safety video at Waitangi and elsewhere around the Bay of Islands and Hokianga.

Air NZ chief executive Christopher Luxon was thrilled that CyArk recognised the uniqueness of the Treaty Grounds when the airline approached it about a collaboration.

"Our cultural identity is a key element of both our nation's history and of our tourism proposition . . . We expect that the content CyArk creates will become an educational asset to encourage a deeper connection with New Zealand and Maori culture, particularly for those who will never get to visit Waitangi," he said.

"Once complete the CyArk digital content will be gifted to Waitangi for use in Te Kōngahu - Museum of Waitangi and on its website to promote New Zealand's unique cultural identity and encourage visitation to the Far North.

"It has been great to work with Waitangi Treaty Grounds and other stakeholders in the Far North and NZ Maori Tourism to make this collaboration with CyArk a reality."