A West Auckland tā moko studio was broken into on Saturday night with up to 24 rare and precious hand-made tools stolen from the premises.
Uhi Tapu owner Mokonuiarangi Smith told the Herald it was "heartbreaking" when he opened his studio the next day and learned of the terrible incident.
Forensics showed up to the scene on Monday morning and police are still investigating.
Security footage has revealed so far that two people were involved in the robbery, one who was a stand-by driver and another who stole the tools.
"I don't know the words," he said, "I just knew something was wrong and things were not as they were meant to be."
The tools, traditionally known as uhi (chisels), are used to literally carve into the skin. It is a finely crafted instrument made from wood and bone from certain animals, varying from whale, pig tusks, or albatross.
The tools were hand made from scratch by Smith himself. It's a practice which many indigenous cultures follow, especially Māori.
There is a sacredness attached to this particular method of tattooing as it carries out ancestral methods, a taonga to Māori.
"They're not something you can just go and buy." He said.
"The fact that it's hand-made makes it a super taonga, and we're hearing [of] taonga being stolen all the time now."
Smith said he had had the honour of holding the tools of his mentor who passed away earlier this year, but those too were also stolen.
"They meant a lot to me. Everything I learned was from him," he said emotionally.
"It's like I lost my whānau."
"I feel like I've done my teacher a disservice and a dishonour."
Smith is hopeful the culprits will come forward and return the tools intact, he's even determined to talk it out.
"I'd sit them down if I could, talk to them and tattoo them."
"Obviously, they're struggling and they need something to lift them out of where they're at. There's lots of ways of doing that, and this is the only way I can do it. Maybe I can plant a seed of change."
"I'd love to understand where they're at in their life. Most [of] the time there's a front and there's armour."
"Maybe they have debts to pay, maybe they need a hit, maybe they are struggling."
Smith wants them to know that there's a better and positive way of living, "they just need guidance".
Smith has begun hand-crafting new tools so that he may be able to continue his work, but he hopes the people responsible will "hear through the grapevine" to return what was taken.
"I feel like they didn't realise what they were doing or what they were taking. The tools are tapu, they're very delicate and can break in the wrong hands."
Smith explains that the tools have helped deliver sacred markings on several different people, and now with them gone it has caused a lot of emotion.