Topic: Arts

Too many taonga appearing in online sales

By Harata Brown
  • Wellington

A relative saw this particular wooden bowl taonga for sale on a Tauranga Moana Buy Swap Sell site on Facebook. 

Te Papa Museum Māori curator, Puawai Cairns says, "So the person who had posted had found a kumete and had taken photos of it.  He said he found it a few years ago following floods on the property and was making enquiries as to how many people are willing to pay for it."

The Ministry of Culture and Heritage says this isn't the first case where Māori taonga are sold online by people who discover them.

David Butts from the Ministry of Culture and Heritage says, "That we've found in recent times probably on average one or two cases a week."

Through the Protected Objects Act, if someone finds taonga on their property, the item has to be registered and identified by a local museum or the ministry.  Experts then try to establish ownership and ask groups or people which may include the finder, to lodge a claim over the item. 

Butts adds, "We've been monitoring cases for some time now, and the main purpose of that really is so we can advise people who are selling taonga tūturu through trade me of their obligations under the Protected Objects Act."

Cairns says, "It's important to protect them in case they aren't inadvertently sent offshore, that they are identified correctly and that the ownership is established."

The Ministry of Culture and Heritage hopes that future sales follow due process where taonga are sold legitimately.