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British High Commissioner unaware preserved Māori heads still remain at British Museum

The UK's representative in New Zealand was unaware preserved tattooed Māori heads still remain in the British Museum's collection despite requests for them to be returned to this country.

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The UK's representative in New Zealand Laura Clarke tells Q+A she understood remains were repatriated. Source: Q+A

British High Commissioner Laura Clarke has told TVNZ's Q+A in an interview for tonight's programme that she has a personal priority to increase the UK's engagement and relationship with Māoridom across New Zealand.

Ms Clarke has already announced He whai mātauranga, a scholarship helping young Māori students to go to the UK to study Māori taonga kept in British institutions. 

Interviewer Jack Tame asked if it is acceptable for the British Museum to continue to hold onto Māori human remains despite requests for those remains to be returned to New Zealand.

"I'd have to check that. But I'm pretty sure that the policy is that Māori human remains are returned," Ms Clarke replied.

Tame pointed out that according to the British Museum, there are Mokomokai  - preserved tattooed Māori heads - that remain part of the museum's collection.

"Oh, that's interesting, 'cause I understood that actually remains were repatriated and there have been quite a lot," Ms Clarke replied.

Tame said some have been returned from some museums, but that those Mokomokai remain, according to the British Museum.

"I don't know about that, but yeah," Ms Clarke said.

Asked would it be appropriate if some are still there, she said, "I mean, I would look into it. But I mean my understanding is that the policy is that remains do get returned to New Zealand."

* Q+A is on TVNZ1 on Mondays at 9.30pm, and the episode is then available on TVNZ OnDemand and as a podcast in all the usual places.