A Northland man is under investigation by Heritage New Zealand for tampering with historic burial sites

Noel Hilliam has repeatedly claimed Maori were not the first inhabitants of New Zealand.
JULIA WADE

Noel Hilliam has repeatedly claimed Maori were not the first inhabitants of New Zealand.

A self-proclaimed historian who has repeatedly claimed Maori were not the first inhabitants of New Zealand is being investigated for allegedly causing damage to archaeological sites.

Heritage New Zealand confirmed it will investigate Noel Hilliam for allegedly taking human remains without following correct protocols.

The Northland man recently claimed a race of White Celts pre-dated Maori and said he had found remains in what he called hangi pits as proof.

He said a visiting Scottish pathologist had confirmed his claims but also told Radio New Zealand that person had since died and wouldn't be available for interviews.

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His most recent claims have been rubbished by the scientific community but were reported by his local newspaper.

A spokeswoman from the University of Edinburgh said the university was not aware of any academic of theirs having contributed to the project.

Heritage NZ senior archaeologist Frank van der Heijden said he understood the alleged offences may have happened in the mid 1990s but had recently resurfaced.

"We are just gathering information and facts at the moment."

He confirmed Hilliam had been contacted by Heritage NZ.

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It is a criminal offence to damage archaeological sites and those found guilty can be fined up to $60,000.

Van der Heijden said if people found human remains, it was important to cover them up and contact authorities to ensure proper care was taken.

Hilliam told Radio New Zealand on Tuesday he had found the remains in hangi pits and did not need permission or a permit to remove them.

"When the wind blows on the sand dunes, there's acres of them exposed to the air."

He said he had not sought a permit because he was fed up with the system. "No one will issue a permit, this is why I got sick and tired of the system and this is why I went ahead."

Van der Heijden said had Hilliam applied for a permit, the process would have been similar to a resource consent. He said hundreds of similar permits were issued each year.

In 2012, Hilliam wrote a book claiming ancient Greek navigators were the first to sail to New Zealand and become the first inhabitants of the islands.

He also said Maui was not a Maori legend but an Egyptian explorer. 

Those claims were also criticised by AUT University professor Paul Moon who said there was no credibility in them and that Hilliam had no qualifications in history, archaeology, anthropology or a related discipline.

He also claimed a year earlier that it was the Portuguese who had discovered New Zealand.

Hilliam has been approached for comment.

 - Stuff

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