A collection of Māori taonga is returning to their home region of Northland after being on loan to the Auckland War Memorial Museum for about a century.
A total of 162 artifacts collected by Andrew Rintoul in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and later donated by the Rintoul family will be housed at the Kauri Museum in Matakohe, Kaipara, from Saturday.
Local iwi, Te Uri o Hau, and the museum are working closely to ensure the taonga return home safely and will be displayed adequately for future generations.
"This is a historical event that will never happen again," Te Uri o Hau kaumātua Hōne Martin said.
"It will have a major impact on our community as a whole, especially for our marae."
Two Rintoul collections were gifted to the Kauri Museum by Andrew Rintoul's son Alexander in his 1968 testament.
He gave more than 800 pieces of polished kauri gum to the Kaipara museum where they are on display to this day.
The other collection – an ensemble of wood and stone carvings as well as several pounamu – was in possession of the Auckland museum since 1925 and has it remained there until now.
Talks between the two museums began in 2017 after Martin joined the Kauri Museum board and learned about the museum's inheritance.
"The museum being pioneerish in '68 only collected the kauri gum from the Auckland museum and left the rest of the taonga there," Martin said.
After presenting proof of Alexander Rintoul's testament, Auckland agreed to return the second part of Rintoul's inheritance.
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Kauri Museum general manager Tracey Wedge says they would be working with Te Uri o Hau to unravel the taonga's history and, as a next step, to incorporate them in the exhibition permanently.
"It is really important for the people of Northland to see those treasures come home. They will fill a hole here," Wedge said.
"Te Uri o Hau have a connection with the taonga and will now have the opportunity to share their stories with generations to come."
Rintoul, a pioneer gum digger from Scotland, was reportedly exploring Northland on horseback, collecting artifacts on his travels.
He is said to have kept diaries with information about the taonga, but the journals' whereabouts are currently unknown.
The museum hopes to find Rintoul's notes to learn more about the origin of the different pieces.
Te Uri o Hau will travel down to Auckland on October 12 to receive the 162 taonga with a karakia and then support their journey to Kaipara.
They will be welcomed with a pōwhiri by students of the local high schools and then carried into the Waihaua Marae in Matakohe for another karakia and a mihi.
"This process is important to retain the mauri (life force) of the Māori inside of the taonga," Martin explained.
"They have been locked away in the darkness, but they are living entities that have been split away from their family."
The artifacts then go to the Kauri Museum and will be on display for the remainder of the day.
For research purposes, they will be dismounted for a few months, but the museum is planning to exhibit the taonga again before Christmas.