There was a quiet but long-awaited homecoming in Waipawa last week, with a small group of volunteers, committee members and staff at the CHB Settlers' Museum taking delivery of several special taonga, on loan from Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington.

Museum chairman Hans Dresel had travelled to Wellington to collect the carefully packed and crated items, which originally came from the Central Hawke's Bay area.

In the past, before CHB had a museum, many taonga from the area were placed in museums further afield to be cared for and exhibited.

Refurbishment of the CB Settlers Museum, the large exhibition hall, has made it possible to bring home these taonga and others from the MTG in Napier and around New Zealand, for a new exhibition Nga Taonga o Tamatea Te Hokianga Mai opening on December 1.


"This is the first time we have ever borrowed items," says CHB Settlers' Museum curator and manager Jana Uhlirova.

"We can do this now because our refurbished exhibition hall is a safe, temperature-controlled place in which to exhibit them. It's exciting and very important to get these local taonga here."

Museum committee member Donald Tipene (Ngati Kahungunu, Ngati Kere) said a karakia over the taonga before the crates were lifted into the museum where they will be unpacked and placed into the exhibit this week, ready for the December 1 opening.

Donald has worked with Jana and the wider community to bring the exhibition together. He says some of the taonga were on display in the museum for an exhibition in 1990, but others are coming home to CHB for the first time. One in particular - a piupiu - has been in storage since it was donated to the Dominion Museum in the early 1900s and this will be its first time on public display.

Another piece which Donald expects to gain a lot of interest is a cloak that was in the 1990 exhibition.

"The piupiu and the cloak whakapapa back to Ngati Kere of Porangahau. I have spoken to the family descendants.

"Our coastal region was occupied by large numbers of Maori due to the abundance of kaimoana. Now, the westerly winds sweep aside the sandhills and expose burial grounds and taonga. They come up from under the ground - some very recently - and we need to do the right thing with these taonga Maori.

"They need to be kept within the area they came from. Maori people need to become more conversant with taonga Maori. As objects of tapu, they have rarely been talked about.


"We need to keep talking to ensure taonga are cared for properly. The long-term plan for CHB is to build a whare taonga, a special museum wing for taonga Maori from this area. It will be a huge project but would mean we can bring taonga home from Australia and Britain and from all over New Zealand and repatriate it."

Among the taonga will be a rare hunter's necklace found in the sand dunes at Blackhead Beach, a mere gifted to Edward Bibby by Matiu Meke, and a hei tiki found by children on a farm at Cooks Tooth, Whangaehu.

Two of the largest items are a river waka on loan from a CB farming family and a pou carved with stone tools, from Horehore Pa, Takapau.

Jana says it is intense to have all the taonga in the building.

"It's a huge thing."

The opening of Nga Taonga o Tamatea To Hokianga Mai will begin with a blessing at the CHB Settlers' Museum, 23 High St, Waipawa at 5.30am on Saturday, December 1. The exhibition will run until March 1, 2019.