The Reserve Bank's governor has apologised after wrongly attributing a panel design on the new $10 note to a Gisborne wharenui, housed at Te Papa Museum.

The design - from a tukutuku panel inside the Te Hau ki Turanga meeting house - represents the Milky Way and has been on New Zealand money since 1993.

But the panel is not originally from the wharenui and the bank is now working with its custodian - the Te Hau ki Turanga Trust - to learn more about the origins of the tukutuku.

In a statement yesterday, the bank's governor Graeme Wheeler said that the panel was a "generic East Coast design" and that with the support of the trust the bank hoped "to discover more of the history of the panel and its weavers."

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Last week, trust spokeswoman Robyn Rauna said the bank's use of cultural property without permission was a concern and a lawyer representing the group had contacted the reserve Bank.

"Our people's expectation is that we are doing what we can to protect and safeguard our taonga.

"That's what we have an issue with - that they have attributed the panels to Te Hau ki Turanga and never sought our tribal consent."

Ms Rauna said the wharenui was not in its original form, and the panels had not been made by Te Hau ki Turanga weavers.

"It's gone through a number of different changes over the 100 years it's been with the Dominion Museum and now Te Papa," she said.

Ms Rauna said she was first alerted to the use of the panels by a weaver who were asked to replicate the panel for the Reserve Bank.

Te Hau ki Turanga wharenui was built in 1842 Orakaiapu pa, near Gisborne, and is one of the oldest surviving wharenui in the world.

According to Te Ara, it was confiscated in 1867 by then Native Minister JC Richmond and its carvings were taken to Wellington, before being reconstructed at the Dominion Museum in the 1930s.

The Waitangi Tribunal has ruled the house was wrongfully taken and Te Papa has agreed to return it to the people of Rongowhakaata by 2017.

Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust chair George Ria said the bank's acknowledgement of the error enabled the trust to "move forward in the right way to celebrate Maori culture on the notes."