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Taonga Tūturu

He hononga tangata – he hononga tēnei taonga ki ngā tīpuna, ki ngā āhuatanga o ngā wā o mua, mā tātou anō hei kai.

Taonga tūturu are protected objects that whakapapa to Te Ao Māori and embody mana, tapu, and mauri. Taonga tūturu can take many forms, from 800-year-old waka to early twentieth-century weaving.

There are two broad categories of taonga tūturu that this webpage will reference: newly-found and privately owned. 

  • Newly-found means any taonga tūturu that is found after the commencement of the Protected Objects Act (1 April 1976). Manatū Taonga register these with “Z” registration numbers. 
  • Privately owned means any taonga tūturu prior to 1 April 1976. Authorised Museums can register these with “Y” registration numbers. 

Under the Protect Objects Act 1975, the Crown is responsible for the care and custody of newly-found taonga tūturu. On behalf of the Crown, Manatū Taonga engages with interested parties, usually iwi and hapū, to create advice for long term ownership and custody to be recommended to the Māori Land Court for determination. In the interim, Manatū Taonga provides physical and sector expertise and financial support to place iwi and hapū in control of how their taonga are looked after. 

The role of Manatū Taonga primarily involves facilitating and supporting iwi and hapū aspirations for their taonga tūturu. Taonga tūturu are generally found by members of the public, or through archaeological activity or construction projects, and sometimes require ongoing conservation treatment. Iwi and hapū may choose to undertake conservation of taonga through indigenous methods, through established museum conventions, or connecting to their uri through art, music, education, and other alternative interpretations.


On this page:


Conservation of Newly-Found Taonga Tūturu

As part of Manatū Taonga’s responsibilities for the interim care of newly-found taonga tūturu we facilitate and support iwi and hapū-led taonga tūturu conservation projects around the country for extremely vulnerable taonga. Iwi and hapū may choose to undertake conservation of taonga through indigenous methods, through established museum conventions, or connecting to their uri through art, music, education, and other alternative interpretations.

He Hononga Taonga, He Hononga Tīpuna: Taonga Tūturu Conservation Videos 

The 2022 He hononga taonga, he hononga tīpuna video series is an educational resource which captures different aspects to consider in the holistic care of taonga tūturu. This includes cultural considerations for relocations, regional histories, taonga tuku iho education, standard museum practice methods, and the complexities and opportunities that arise in preserving taonga tūturu. 

Head here to watch the first two videos in the series.

Conservation Panel of Suppliers

In the last few years Manatū Taonga has devolved and decentralised the process for taonga tūturu under our care to ensure small- and large-scale projects can take place at, or near, their discovery locations in consultation with local iwi, hapū and whānau. 

Our aim is to ensure the process for what happens to taonga tūturu once they are found is designed and decided by iwi, hapū and whānau. We do this by connecting our Panel suppliers – specialist conservators, heritage practitioners and representatives from the wider museum sector – to these projects, to enable communities to work together with the shared purpose of caring for the taonga.

Who is on the Panel of Suppliers?

  • Tāmaki Paenga Hira, Auckland War Memorial Museum
  • Otago Museum 
  • Otago University 
  • Rose Evans (Te Ati Awa) – independent 
  • Rangi Te Kanawa (Ngāti Maniapoto) – independent 
  • Susanne Rawson, HPFS Solutions – independent 
  • Sara Gainsford, RedOx CHS – independent 
  • Brigid Gallagher, Mishmish Productions Ltd – independent 

What services do the panel suppliers provide?

  • Suppliers can provide the services listed below as required: 
  • Conservation of wet organic materials such as flax fibres and wood 
  • Remedial conservation of taonga tūturu 
  • Crate making and assembly 
  • Display frame assembly 
  • Expert museum advice 
  • Freeze drying capabilities 
  • Artefact installation specialists 

How can I join the panel?

Suppliers who can provide the required conservation services can apply to join the Panel. Applications will be assessed against the criteria detailed in the Request for Proposal for Taonga Tūturu. Successful respondents will then become suppliers on the Panel and will be contacted on an ad-hoc basis, based on the skills required, the location of the taonga tūturu and the preferences of the iwi involved.

Applicants for the Panel should:

  1. Read the Request for Proposal and ensure you understand it.
  2. Read the Master Services Agreement, Statement of Work templates (lite version or long version) and the Code of Conduct information and ensure you understand it.
  3. Fill out the Request for Proposal response form and return it to [email protected] or the email listed on the form.

Contact [email protected] using the subject line "panel of suppliers" if you have any questions about applying.


Administration of Newly-Found Taonga Tūturu

Finding Taonga Tūturu

When someone finds taonga tūturu they should notify Manatū Taonga directly by emailing [email protected] and then take the taonga to a nearby public museum. 

If iwi, hapū, or an archaeologist are the finders of taonga tūturu they can contact [email protected] to discuss appropriate next steps. Manatū Taonga will create a record of what has been found and assign a “Z” registration number to it.

Claiming Ownership

Manatū Taonga will, in due course, notify potentially interested parties of what has been found and what the next steps in the process for claiming ownership are. Interested parties are generally identified based on the location where the taonga was found. We also issue a public notice in a local newspaper and on our website asking for claims to be made within 60 working days.     

Any person or group with an interest in any taonga tūturu may submit a claim for ownership. Manatū Taonga will assess claims received, work with claimants to resolve multiple claims where applicable, and progress resolved cases to the Māori Land Court for a determination of ownership.

Types of Ownership

Two different types of ownership can be sought:

  1. Actual ownership
    Applies where it is clear that the taonga tūturu was owned by a particular person or persons, and a claim is made by that person or by people associated with that person.
  2. Traditional ownership
    Applies where evidence of actual ownership is not clear and the claim is made on the basis of the rohe where the taonga was found and which iwi or hapū would normally associate with it. 

No right, title, estate, or interest in any such taonga tūturu shall exist solely by virtue of ownership or occupation of the land from which the taonga tūturu was found or recovered.

The Māori Land Court has authority to determine the actual or traditional ownership, rightful possession, or custody of any newly found taonga tūturu in an individual or group (such as rūnanga). 

Ownership can be vested jointly or shared between multiple parties. For example, multiple iwi or hapū that each have valid claims to traditional ownership may share ownership of a taonga tūturu.

For advice on Māori Land Court practices and procedures, please visit its website.


Privately Owned Taonga Tūturu

Sales and Trade 

Newly-found taonga tūturu cannot be traded.

A privately owned taonga tūturu can be sold only to a registered collector, a public museum, or to a licenced dealer or auctioneer. A taonga tūturu cannot be released to any person until the seller has proof that the purchaser is one of these three.

Licenced dealers and auctioneers may trade only in taonga tūturu which are in private ownership and have been registered. A certificate of examination (“Y” registration) from an authorised museum must be obtained for the taonga tūturu before it is sold if one has not already been issued. It is the responsibility of the dealer or auctioneer to obtain the certificate from the nearest authorised museum.

Private sales (sales not through an auction house or dealer) of privately owned taonga tūturu are allowed under section 14 of the Act. Taonga tūturu do not have to have been issued a “Y” registration number to be sold privately, but the buyer may approach an authorised museum to have a certificate of examination completed if they wish. 

When a registered collector purchases or sells taonga tūturu, they are required to notify the Ministry within 14 days of a change in their collection.

Licence to Trade in Taonga Tūturu

Dealers and auctioneers licenced under the Auctioneers Act 2013 or the Secondhand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Act 2004 can trade in privately owned taonga tūturu if they have been authorised to do so by Manatū Taonga. All licences issued by Manatū Taonga are valid until 31 January and must be renewed yearly.

Authorised Museums

Under section 16 of the Act, authorised museums are required to issue certificates of examination to licenced dealers and auctioneers prior to the sale of taonga tūturu. Certificates can also be issued to private individuals if requested. 

The Authorised Museums are Auckland Museum, Te Papa, Canterbury Museum and Otago Museum.

Registered Collectors

If you wish to own privately owned taonga tūturu you must become a Registered Collector of Taonga Tūturu. Individuals and groups can apply to Manatū Taonga to become a Registered Collector of Taonga Tūturu. 

To become a registered collector, the person or group should:

  • ordinarily reside in New Zealand; and
  • not have been convicted of an offence against the Protected Objects Act (previously the Antiquities Act) or the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act.

Taonga Tūturu in Crown Custody

If you would like information about a taonga in Crown custody or would like information on taonga found since 1975, please contact us at [email protected].


Forms and Helpful Links:


Updated on 6th October 2022