Man charged after greenstone mere taken from Auckland Museum, but $60k artefact still missing

The mere that was stolen from the Auckland Museum earlier this month was worth $60,000 but invaluable in whakapapa terms, the institution’s David Reeves says.

The 38mm greenstone taonga is named Pokaiwhenua and was stolen on March 6.

A 26-year-old Auckland man has been charged with theft and wilful damage. However, the mere is still missing and police are still appealing to the public for help to find it.

Mr Reeves said the dollar figure, which was on an Auckland District court document, priced the mere for insurance purposes but “you can’t put a [price] on the personal association and the whakapapa”.

The piece had been on display in a glass case next to a carved poutokomanawa of a Ngāti Porou ancestor, Iwirakau.

In the carving, Iwirakau is holding what’s believed to be the carved likeness of the mere that was stolen.

Iwirakau was a “revered ancestor” and lived in the Waiapu Valley on the east coast ten generations before both pieces were obtained by the museum in the 1890s.

“It’s [the mere] a very, very beautiful piece. It’s fantastic,” Mr Reeves said.

The museum is now undertaking a security review but it’s not the first time thefts have occurred. In 2001 a gold frog was stolen, a year earlier a Goldie painting.

The museum had loaned the piece out before and is keeping Te Runanga o Ngāti Porou updated. 

Mr Reeves said he was hopeful the taonga would be returned.

“My sense is that these things have a habit of coming home again. There’s a wairua amongst them – in the end they come back.”

Anyone with information on the mere's whereabouts is asked to contact Auckland City Police on 09 302 6557 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Maori artefact. Source: 1 NEWS