Northland's Waitangi Treaty Grounds have been declared the country's first National Historic Landmark.

Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Grant Robertson announced the news at Waitangi today.

The new programme to establish national historic landmarks will help protect New Zealand's defining moments in time and the special places that are the cornerstones of national identity.

"Some of these sites are associated with important and sometimes challenging discussions about the events that have shaped our past and will influence our future," Robertson said.

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"Given the cultural, historic and social significance of this place, before and after February 6, 1840, it's appropriate the Waitangi Treaty Grounds is New Zealand's first National Historic Landmark."

Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta said places such as Waitangi have deep significance to New Zealanders and its safeguarding is important to us all.

"Following discussions with site owners, iwi and the community, further landmarks will be identified and added to the programme to recognise and preserve the heritage value of these places throughout the country," Mahuta said.

"A key objective of National Historic Landmarks is to help prioritise Government's heritage conservation efforts. This includes developing long-term risk planning and management to ensure these places are earthquake resilient and protected from other natural disasters as much as possible."

The National Historic Landmarks/Ngā Manawhenua o Aotearoa me ōna Kōrero Tūturu programme was introduced by the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014.

Heritage New Zealand works in partnership with Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage and other stakeholders including the Department of Conservation to deliver the programme.