Image: Waitangi Treaty Grounds ©

Our Story

Tohu Whenua is a visitor programme that connects New Zealanders with our unique heritage and enhances our sense of national identity by promoting significant historical and cultural sites.

Sites chosen as Tohu Whenua are places that have shaped our nation and created our defining stories. Together they form a network of Aotearoa New Zealand’s best heritage experiences.

Launched in 2016, the programme is successfully operating in three regions – Te Tai Tokerau Northland, Otago and Te Tai Poutini West Coast. The goal is to roll out Tohu Whenua in all 15 regions of New Zealand.

Our Partners

Tohu Whenua is a partnership between the following New Zealand government agencies.
  • Department of Conservation Logo
  • Manatū Taonga Link
  • Heritage NZ Pouhere Taonga Logo
with support from
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment Logo
  • Te Puni Kokiri Logo

Criteria for sites

Tohu Whenua works closely with iwi and communities in each region to identify the places that are most significant to their rohe. These are assessed against the programme’s criteria.

  • Special significance to New Zealand
  • Storytelling potential
  • Iwi benefit
  • An owner willing to be part of Tohu Whenua
  • Community benefit
  • Stories that matter to people
  • Accessibility
  • Family Friendly
  • Potential to grow
  • Presentation
  • Willing owner 

Frequently asked questions

  • Tohu Whenua is the name of the visitor programme that promotes New Zealand’s most significant heritage sites. Tohu Whenua are also the places that have shaped Aotearoa New Zealand. Located in stunning landscapes and rich with stories, they offer some of our best heritage experiences.

  • A nationwide network of sites that connects New Zealanders with their heritage and the defining stories of
    Aotearoa New Zealand.

  • Tohu Whenua is for anyone with an interest in Aotearoa New Zealand’s history and culture. Kiwis can connect with their own heritage and identity, and international visitors will learn more about what makes our country unique.

  • Tohu Whenua acknowledges memories of the land, marking places made significant by our forebears and telling their stories. Literally translated, it means ‘landmark’ (tohu = mark; whenua = land).

  • Tohu Whenua has been launched in three regions so far – Northland (9 sites, 2016), Otago (11 sites, 2017) and West Coast (5 sites launched in 2018 and 2020 with more to come). We will continue to roll out Tohu Whenua on a region-by-region basis.

  • The goal is to roll out Tohu Whenua in all 15 regions of New Zealand (our regions are determined by regional council boundaries). The region we will be concentrating on next is Kā Pākihi Whakatekateka o Waitaha Canterbury. 

  • The Tohu Whenua programme works closely with iwi and communities to identify the places that are most significant to their rohe and then these are assessed against the programme’s criteria. The final selections or approvals are made by the Tohu Whenua Governance Group, which is made up of senior staff from the partner agencies.

  • To showcase important places and their stories that contribute to our national identity. 
    To connect New Zealanders with their heritage. 
    To create a framework within which site owners/managers and their communities are enabled to tell their stories. 
    To support site owners/managers to make these places ready for visitors and to realise the economic, social and cultural benefits of being part of the network.

  • Tohu Whenua are publicly and privately owned places. Some are owned or cared for by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga or Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai. Many are managed by trusts and some are privately owned. The important thing is that the sites’ owners or managers are on board.

  • No. 

    National Historic Landmarks is a statutory programme that is focused on heritage protection, risk management and resilience. It adds a layer to the recognition and safeguarding of the places of greatest heritage value to the people of New Zealand.

    Tohu Whenua is a visitor-focused programme that tells stories and promotes heritage. 

    Some places will be both National Historic Landmarks and Tohu Whenua but it is not a pre-requisite or guarantee. The first National Historic Landmark was launched in June 2019, Te Pitowhenua / Waitangi Treaty Grounds, which happens to also be a Tohu Whenua site.

  • Tohu Whenua is a partnership between Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga (HNZPT), Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai (DOC) and Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage (MCH) with support from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Hīkina Whakatutuki (MBIE) and Te Puni Kokiri Ministry for Māori Development (TPK). Representatives from all five agencies are part of the Governance Group.

    At a working level, a Steering Group with members from HNZPT, DOC, MCH and TPK oversees operations. The programme employs one permanent staff member, Tohu Whenua’s programme manager.

  • We work closely with Tourism New Zealand, regional tourism organisations, mainstream and trade media, and of course the operators of each Tohu Whenua.

  • The best places for visitors to learn more about Tohu Whenua are on the website, on Facebook and Instagram, or by downloading our regional brochures.

Still haven’t found the answer to your question?

Please contact the Tohu Whenua team

Note that we receive a large number of emails and may not be able to respond immediately.

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