Taranaki iwi shaken by theft of whale jawbones

A Taranaki iwi has been shaken by the theft of whale jawbones from a hapū storage shed in Ōtākeho where they were being kept while discussions were underway over their use for cultural purposes.

The theft was reported to police on Monday morning but police have told Te Ao Māori News today that they have “filed” the matter for the moment due to “no strong lines of enquiry”.

Te Korowai o Ngāruahine Trust tumu whakarae Te Aorangi Dillon took to social media on Tuesday to report the theft from the Ngāti Haua hapū building and appeal for information.

“Taken from the shed, is one side of each of the three sets of jaws we hold, as well as some niho.

“This has happened in the past 24 – 48 hours with the damage being found this morning. Someone (or people) have cut the lock to the gate and jimmied open the heavy middle door to the shed,” Dillon wrote.

The theft has to have been planned and involve more than one person, she suggested.

“An incident like this does not happen without a plan, the kauwae parāoa are too heavy to be lifted by one person and not cause a disturbance to everything else around it. Transport would have also needed to be a consideration as they are too big to put in the back of a car. You would need a trailer, at a push you could get away with a S.U.V, a ute or a van.”

Dillon expressed concern about the “spiritual wellbeing” of those involved.

“We would like for the koiwi and niho to be returned and your spiritual wellbeing maintained.”

It’s a message she repeated in a subsequent post, as well as expressing the iwi’s determination to see the taonga returned.

“Thank you to every single person who has shared the post about our tāonga. Right now, we’ve gone from riri to pouri and now.....motivated,” Dillon wrote.

“Ka tū whakaiti tonu mātou, we don’t get blessed with such taonga for them to be taken out from under our nose and there be no consequence that will be confronting to bare, for us and those who participated in the act.

“That’s the pono coming out. We don’t get to sit here and play the victim e hoa mā. No siree, it’s time to refocus, be grateful, be firm and live purposefully.”

In a statement provided to Te Ao Māori News, a police spokesperson said, “I can confirm that this was reported to Police on Monday just before midday. At this stage there were no strong lines of enquiry, therefore the matter has been filed. If further lines of enquiry are presented then the matter will be reviewed.”

Dillon has been approached by Te Ao Māori News for an interview.