The theft of an important taonga from the carved foyer of Wairoa District Council's main office building has prompted an appeal for its return.
The whalebone manaia was prised from the neck of the carved depiction of Kahungunu, which sits just out of view of the reception desk.
Wairoa District Council chief executive Peter Freeman said police had been informed and hopefully it was simply a matter of time before the thief was apprehended and the taonga returned. The theft happened on Thursday.
"This is an appalling crime to commit on the people of Wairoa," he said.
"The foyer carvings are a unique work of art belonging to all of us, so to steal an essential element of it leaves us all feeling let down.
"The person who took the manaia will certainly pay a high price due to the spiritual nature of the piece."
The carving of Kahungunu is one of six panels that make up the larger work, commissioned in the early 1990s and carried out by renowned artist and carver Broughton Johnson.
Anyone with information about the missing whalebone manaia should contact Wairoa Police on (06) 838 8345.