Last week, UNESCO accepted the bid for Taputapuatea marae to become a world heritage site after nearly two decades of campaigning.
The marae complex is about 1000 years old and is seen as the point of origin for Polynesian seafarers who travelled to Rapa Nui, Hawai'i and New Zealand.
Otago University's Paul Tapsell said the site had always been significant and connected the people of the Pacific.
"We are all part of the same Austronesian family that carries the same language, same cultural background, same belief systems and we have been in the Pacific for somewhere around 3000 years. Taputapuatea is right at the heart of our very soul of being a Pacific people."
He said UNESCO was coming to understand that heritage is about people, culture and community as well as landscapes.