A carved whalebone whip handle, probably the most prized possession of Hokianga rangatira George Clendon, has been stolen from historic Clendon House in Rawene, Northland.
Mr Clendon was regarded by local Maori as a significant rangatira (chief) and the house where he lived from 1862 until his death in 1933 was one of the most significant historic places in Northland, New Zealand Historic Places Trust heritage destinations manager Gordon Hewston said.
It appears someone took the intricately hand-carved whip handle from a display case on Sunday, when the house was open to the public.
They probably did not realise the significance of the handle, which had likely never left the house, so it was in their best interests to return it promptly, he said.
"The real value of this object is the connection it has with the house and its cultural significance. We really just want this object returned to us as soon as possible, even if it's brought back anonymously."
Mr Clendon was the oldest son of James Reddy Clendon and his wife Jane Takotowi Clendon was a woman of significant whakapapa in the Hokianga. He served as the official native translator for the region.