17 Dec 2015

Long-lost treasures return to Waitangi

12:53 pm on 17 December 2015

Long-lost treasures have returned to Waitangi to go on display at a new museum.

Galleries and museums around the country have released valuable Maori artefacts and paintings that haven't been seen in the north for more than 100 years.

The Waitangi National Trust has built the new $14 million museum next to the Waitangi Visitor Centre, and work on the building is almost complete.

Wall panels go up in the new Waitangi museum

Wall panels go up in the new Waitangi museum Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

The state-of-the-art museum will house artefacts and paintings that tell the story of Maori and European history in the north, and the Treaty of Waitangi.

The new Waitangi museum with exterior art work by Carin Wilson

The new Waitangi museum with exterior art work by Carin Wilson Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Taonga returned to Waitangi this week include a carved self-portrait of Hongi Hika, mere and axes belonging to Kawiti and other chiefs, the Goldie painting Tamati Waka Nene and the Te Pahi medal, bought from Sotheby's last year by Te Papa and the Auckland museum.

Te Pahi medal

Te Pahi medal Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

The collection also includes a full-length portrait of Queen Victoria, gifted to the Trust by Queen Elizabeth in the 1970s, and christening gifts from Victoria to a Ngapuhi godchild.

A wooden bust of Hongi Hika carved by the chief himself.

A wooden bust of Hongi Hika carved by the chief himself. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

The trust's chief executive Greg McManus said the first exhibition would be one that told the story of Waitangi Day throughout the years.

Mr McManus said taonga that have been stored in museums and galleries around the country were now returning for the permanent exhibition.

Waitangi National Trust chief executive Greg McManus

Waitangi National Trust chief executive Greg McManus Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

"It's a photography exhibition of five of New Zealand's top photographers who have been to Waitangi Day over the last 30 years and documented it from a social history perspective, focusing on protests and people," Mr McManus said.

"So I think it's going to be really interesting, there's going to be photographs here that have never been seen publicly before."

The new Waitangi museum opens to the public on 7 February next year.