26 Jan 2012

Customs intercepted pounamu returned to Ngai Tahu

7:17 pm on 26 January 2012

The Customs Service in Christchurch on Thursday returned 175 kilograms of pounamu to Ngai Tahu iwi, at a ceremony on the Rehua marae in the suburb of St Albans.

Deputy Controller of Operations Robert Lake says officers intercepted the greenstone, which a South Island jeweller was trying to export to China, in December 2010.

He says all the pieces of pounamu weighed more than five kilograms, which required the jeweller to be in possession of a permit.

Mr Lake says the jeweller who's been very co-operative and didn't realise the need for a permit, was issued with a warning but wasn't prosecuted.

Ngai Tahu's deputy kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai says the seizure by customs of such a large quantity of pounamu, is a timely reminder that there are strict exporting rules for the taonga resource.

She says the West Coast runanga of Ngai Tahu accepted possession of the pounamu from the Customs Service.

Ms Tumahai says her tribe is thrilled with the return of the greenstone and the process which the Customs Service has in place to protect the resource.