A gift possibly given to Queen Victoria more than 120 years ago has finally made its journey home to Te Arawa after passing through many hands, being sold to antique dealers and a Kiwi private collector.
The Te Arawa pare (door lintel carving), which may have been gifted by the New Zealand Government on Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1886, was welcomed home in a special ceremony at the Rotorua Museum yesterday in front of about 100 people.
It was an emotional return with some attending shedding a tear or two as the box was finally opened to reveal the large carved wooden pare.
Ministry for Culture and Heritage Deputy Chief Executive Ronald Milne thanked the people of Te Arawa, the Rotorua Museum, Te Papa and Tainui for their role in helping to have the pare returned to the region.
He said the pare had been in the possession of the Commonwealth Institute. When the institute closed in 2002 it had been transferred, by deed of gift, to the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum (BECM).
In 2009, the pare had been de-accessioned by the BECM and sold, he said, "under disturbing circumstances". It had eventually been bought by Bruce Miller, a private collector in Blenheim.
In 2011, the Ministry had been approached about the possible return of the pare to its area of origin.
Local kaumatua Mauriora Kingi and Jim Schuster had examined the pare and found it had come from Te Arawa's Ngati Pikiao hapu Tarawhai at Rotoiti.
Te Arawa kaumatua Piwiki Heke said it was great a taonga had been returned as it was part of the history of the region and iwi.
"It's a dream. We dream of our taonga coming home that were out in the world. It's a piece of our history."