A man charged with burglary after taking 14 protected Maori artefacts from a house near Hastings eight months ago has pleaded guilty and been ordered to come up for sentence if called upon.
Twelve greenstone mere (mere pounamu), whale-bone mere (mere paraoa) and a greenstone bladed adze (toki poutangata) were taken from a Paki Paki residence on April 17.
Registered under the Protected Objects Act, they were part of the estate of Pukepuke Tangiora, who died in 1936, and conservatively valued at over $250,000. They were surrendered days later to Te Papa National Museum in Wellington and police arrested 32-year-old Charles Toko Te Waka Taare Mohi, of Levin.
Senior Constable Pehi Potaka said in a police summary the taonga had been stored in recent years at a private address, in stainless steel box engraved with the name Pukepuke Tangiora.
Mohi entered the house about 10.30am, took the box without disturbing anything else on the property, and drove home to Levin.
"The burglary and theft of the taonga had a massive impact on the wider whanau, resulting in family meetings and intense discussion throughout the country," Mr Potaka said.
As a result of speculation that he was involved, Mohi was visited by other members of the family, and arranged for the taonga to be given to another family member and handed to an employee of the museum.
In Hastings District Court yesterday, counsel Anthony Willis said after a restorative justice conference at the weekend the complainant's family did not want the case to continue in court. But the police wanted to continue, prosecutor Sergeant John Ashfield confirmed.
Mr Willis said the items had been quickly turned over to the museum, where they remained.
Mr Willis said a defended hearing would raise questions about rights to possession of the taonga and question if it was a burglary.
It would involve a need to call expert witnesses, he said.
Judge Tony Adeane said "95 per cent of the case doesn't belong in this court", and offered a sentence indication, that if Mohi pleaded guilty he would be convicted and ordered to come up for sentence if called upon within the next 12 months.
After a break, Mohi returned to the court, pleaded guilty through the lawyer and was told by the judge that if he committed no further offences in the next 12 months that would be the end of the matter as far as the court was concerned.