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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.

This page discusses taonga tūturu in two categories: found and privately owned.

Found – taonga tūturu found after 1 April 1976 when the Protected Objects Act came into being. Manatū Taonga registers these with ‘Z’ registration numbers.

Privately owned – taonga tūturu found prior to 1 April 1976. Authorised museums may register these with ‘Y’ registration numbers.  

The role of Manatū Taonga is to engage with interested parties, usually iwi and hapū, to develop recommendations for long-term ownership and custody for found taonga. In the interim, Manatū Taonga provides financial and other support, with iwi and hapū in control of how found taonga are looked after. Manatū Taonga also monitors the trade of privately owned taonga tūturu and the registration of collectors.

Administration of found Taonga Tūturu

Finding Taonga Tūturu

Taonga tūturu are generally found by members of the public, or through archaeological activity or construction projects.

If you find taonga tūturu please:

  • notify Manatū Taonga directly by emailing [email protected] with location information and photos
  • take the taonga to a nearby public museum to be registered
  • if you find taonga in relation to an archaeological site or during earthworks, contact Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga
  • if you are concerned that the taonga may be at risk of damage, let us know as soon as possible by emailing [email protected]

Public museums, archaeologists, and iwi representatives who need to register taonga tūturu can do so through the Protected Objects Database. If you need to set up a log-in for the database, please contact [email protected].

Claiming ownership

Manatū Taonga will notify potentially interested parties of what has been found and what the next steps are in the process for claiming ownership. 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 a taonga tūturu may submit a claim for ownership. Manatū Taonga will assess the claims, work with claimants to resolve multiple claims where applicable, and progress resolved cases to the Māori Land Court Te Kooti Whenua Māori for a determination of ownership. Individuals and groups may also apply directly to the Māori Land Court Te Kooti Whenua Māori for a determination of ownership.

Types of ownership

Two different types of ownership can be sought:

Actual ownership – this 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 their associates.

Traditional ownership – this applies where evidence of actual ownership is not clear. The claim is made based on the rohe where the taonga was found or other identifying features such as carving style, and the iwi or hapū which would normally associate with the taonga. No right, title, estate, or interest in any such taonga tūturu shall exist solely by ownership or occupation of the land where the taonga tūturu was found or recovered.

The Māori Land Court Te Kooti Whenua Māori

The Māori Land Court Te Kooti Whenua Māori has authority to determine the actual or traditional ownership, rightful possession, or custody of any found taonga tūturu for 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.

Advice on Māori Land Court practices and procedures (Māori Land Court).

Conservation of found Taonga Tūturu

As part of its role in the interim care of found taonga tūturu, Manatū Taonga facilitates and supports iwi- and hapū-led conservation projects for extremely vulnerable taonga tūturu. Iwi and hapū may choose to conserve taonga through indigenous methods, through established museum conventions, or by connecting to their uri through art, music, education, and other alternative interpretations.

Conservation video series: He hononga taonga, he hononga tīpuna

He hononga taonga, he hononga tīpuna (2022) is an educational video series about the different aspects to consider in the holistic care of taonga tūturu, such as:

  • cultural considerations for relocations
  • regional histories
  • taonga tuku iho education
  • standard museum practice methods
  • the complexities and opportunities that arise in preserving taonga tūturu.

See: He hononga taonga, he hononga tīpuna: Taonga Tūturu conservation videos.

Conservation Panel of Suppliers

Our Conservation Panel of Suppliers consists of specialist conservators, heritage practitioners and representatives from the wider museum sector.

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

We aim to make sure what happens to taonga tūturu is designed and decided by iwi, hapū and whānau. We do this by connecting our Panel of Suppliers to these projects, to enable communities to work together with the shared purpose of caring for the taonga.

What services do members of the Panel of Suppliers provide?

  • 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 of Suppliers?

Suppliers who can provide the required conservation services can apply to join the Panel of Suppliers. Applications will be assessed against criteria in the Request for Proposal for Taonga Tūturu. Successful applicants 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:

Questions can be directed to [email protected] using the subject line: ‘panel of suppliers’.

Privately owned Taonga Tūturu

Sales and trade

Found taonga tūturu cannot be traded. A privately owned taonga tūturu can only be sold or gifted to a registered collector or a public museum. A sold taonga tūturu cannot be released to any person until the seller has proof that the recipient is a registered collector or a public museum.

Privately owned taonga tūturu must have a certificate of examination (‘Y’ registration) from an authorised museum to be sold through a licenced dealer or auctioneer. It is the responsibility of the dealer or auctioneer to obtain the certificate from the nearest authorised museum before it is sold.

A ‘Y’ registration is not required by an individual selling taonga tūturu through online auction websites or other means, but the buyer can request this from an authorised museum if they wish.

The authorised museums are: Auckland Museum, Te Papa, Canterbury Museum and Otago Museum.

When a registered collector buys or sells taonga tūturu, they are required to notify Manatū Taonga within 14 days of a change in their collection.

Licence to trade in Taonga Tūturu

Licenced dealers and auctioneers 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.

Printable application form to obtain a licence to trade in taonga tūturu.

Registered collectors

Individuals and groups can apply to Manatū Taonga to become a Registered Collector of Taonga Tūturu.

Online application form to be a registered Collector of Taonga Tūturu.

Taonga Tūturu in Crown custody

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

Forms and helpful links

Updated on 19th September 2023