A canoe intentionally sunk in South Taranaki in the mid 1860s may have been recovered and taken away, Ngā Rauru Kītahi kaumatua Potonga Neilson says.

Since late last year, he's been hearing rumours the waka (canoe) came to the surface of Lake Moumahaki in a recent flood, was recovered and then taken away on a truck.

The lake, originally called Rotoroa, is inland from Waverley and between Braemore and Omahina roads.

Mr Neilson said two waka were intentionally sunk in it during the "scorched earth" raids of Major-General Trevor Chute in 1865. In them British troops were sent up the Patea, Whenuakura and Waitotara rivers, burning crops and villages as they went.

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There were several villages around the lake, Mr Neilson said.

Waka were used to move around on it. When the soldiers came, some waka were damaged or destroyed and others were left floating around for a while. Two were deliberately sunk.

Their owners intended to go back and get them when the land was returned to them. But that has never happened.

Ngā Rauru people asked for the lake and the land around it in their Treaty of Waitangi claim. They only got only the bed of the lake back.

Getting access to it across privately owned land has made it difficult to retrieve the waka.

But Mr Neilson has been told they were there until recently. Someone saw them from the air, still sitting on the lake bed, side by side.

"They're not lost, just waiting. They have owners," he said.

Mr Neilson wants to talk to the person who retrieved the waka, and may let them keep it. He doesn't want to involve police.

He can be contacted on 06 344 7517.