Auckland City Police have arrested a male following an investigation into the alleged theft of a greenstone mere artefact from the Auckland Museum earlier this month.
A 26-year-old male has been charged in relation to theft, wilfull damage and intentional damage and is appearing in the Auckland District Court today.
The mere pounamu, which museum records indicate is named Pokaiwhenua, is still missing.
Auckland Museum told Te Ao Māori News that the stolen mere pounamu is from Ngāti Porou. The story of the mere is closely related to the carved poutokomanawa of Iwirakau, which it was displayed next to.
“We are deeply shocked and saddened by the theft,” says David Reeves, Director Collections and Research, “The stolen mere pounamu has significant historical and cultural value.”
Reeves says Auckland Museum takes its role as a kaitiaki of Auckland’s collections extremely seriously, protecting and caring for an outstanding and significant collection of Māori treasures.
The museum's Māori Court contains over 1,000 artefacts from around Aotearoa which date back to the arrival and settlement of Māori.
Both the carving and the mere came to the museum from Edward Walker of Port Awanui, East Coast. The museum accessioned the mere into the collection in 1897.
“The museum acknowledges the impact the theft will have on descendants and has been keeping iwi representatives informed on the progress of the investigation,” Reeves says, “We remain hopeful for the safe return of this precious taonga.”
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Pokaiwhenua is asked to please contact Auckland City Police on 09 302 6557 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111