16 Apr 2014

Museums join to bring medal home

5:50 pm on 16 April 2014

A medal awarded to a Ngapuhi chief 200 years ago is returning home thanks to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

The silver medal was gifted to Northland rangatira Te Pahi by New South Wales Governor Phillip Gidely King in 1806.

But the medal was stolen in 1810 during an attack on Te Pahi's home by British sailors and had been lost since.

It recently came to public attention when it was offered for auction, having been in a private collection in Australia for many years.

Te Papa and the Auckland museum combined to win the medal at auction, paying $300,000.

Te Pahi's silver medal.

Te Pahi's silver medal. Photo: Sotheby’s Australia

Te Papa kaihautu [Maori leader] Arapata Hakiwai said he was glad the collaboration with the Auckland museum had paid off.

"It's great we can come together and work together on important issues such as the medal", Mr Hakiwai said.

"They (Te Pahi's descendants) didn't want to see this taonga lost for another 204 years but to come home and to be experienced and to be seen by their people and future generations."

Auckland museum director Roy Clare said the acquisition affirmed the strength of the rapidly evolving day-to-day relationship with iwi, hapu and whanau nationwide.

"... we're thrilled to have worked together with Te Papa, with encouragement from Te Pahi descendants in Ngapuhi, to secure the return to Aotearoa of an exceptionally significant piece of history relating to early relationships between Maori and Europeans," Mr Clare said.

Ngapuhi kaumatua Hugh Rihari paid tribute to the museums' efforts and said it brought closure to the pain and suffering the people of Ngapuhi had endured for the past 204 years.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown said he was thrilled to see such an important piece of history being returned to New Zealand.

He commended the way the museums had worked together, along with descendants of Te Pahi, to ensure the taonga would be accessible for future generations to come.