Repatriation of Taonga Maori and Moko Mokai

  • Tau Henare
Maori Affairs

The Minister of Maori Affairs, the Hon Tau Henare, is to lead a delegation later this year to retrieve Maori taonga and moko mokai from overseas.

Cabinet today approved the trip in principle, with dates and details of the trip to be confirmed at a later date.

Mr Henare said there was much lead up work to be done beforehand and part of the trip's objective included determining how New Zealand might best handle this sensitive issue with other countries.

"I'm overwhelmed by Cabinet's support for this," he said. "But at the same time I'm not surprised given the political climate we work in.

"But it goes to show there's recognition this issue is not only important to Maori, but non-Maori as well."

Meanwhile, information received today indicated British ethnologists are still working on the identification of a moko mokai exhumed nearly two weeks ago.

"Though they're saying it's a 'high probability' the head is Maori it's better to be safe and a comprehensive report on the recently exhumed head would be available in the next couple of weeks from Britain."

Mr Henare said the repatriation of taonga Maori and moko mokai was a delicate issue that needed to be treated sensitively.

"You can't just go off to foreign countries blasting away that you're the saviour for taonga Maori etc and you want them back.

"There's a certain amount of information and expertise here in New Zealand to be drawn on to assist with these matters that I hope to draw on in ensuing weeks," said Mr Henare.