Fossil thieves' fate undecided - authorities

The hole left in the rock after a group used a rock saw and chisel to remove the fossil, thought to be around 23 million years old. Photo / Supplied

Authorities on the West Coast are still figuring out how to reprimand three men who stole a 23 million year-old whale fossil from the banks of the Little Wanganui River on Labour day.

Police recovered the fossil on Tuesday from a man’s home at Granity north of Westport.

"Police will continue to work with our partner agencies and iwi to return the taonga to the local Karamea community," police said in a statement on Wednesday.

Locals and Hapū Ngāti Waewae were horrified when news broke of the three men hacking away at the fossil, ignoring pleas from passers by to leave the whale be.

The 23-million-year-old whale fossil taken from the West Coast beach on Labour weekend, since recovered by Police. Photo / Supplied

West Coast Regional Council consents and compliance manager Colin Helem says the removal is likely a breach of the Resource Management Act (RMA), but there were hopes, given the circumstances of the offence, that police could level more serious charges.

"As far as breaching a rule in our coastal plan by using mechanical means (to remove the fossil), it's a fairly minor breach." Helem said.

Ngāti Waewae chair Francois Tumahai described the removal of the fossil as "desecration of a taonga".

As kaitiaki, the hapū hoped the guilty individuals would be held accountable.

A 23-million-year-old whale fossil taken from a West Coast beach on Labour Weekend was recovered by police in Granity on Monday. Photo / NZ Police

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