The ancestral remains of 22 Maori and Moriori were welcomed home from Australian museums today in Wellington.

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa held a ceremony to mark the return of the 14 Moriori remains and eight Maori remains.

The museum's Kaihautu (Maori leader) Michelle Hippolite said the Karanga Aotearoa Repatriation programme had been working since June 2004 on the return of the remains from Sydney University's J.L. Shellshear Museum and the Western Australian Museum in Perth.

"The repatriation of these tupuna (ancestors) is a time for reflection and joy that they are returning to their home land of Aotearoa New Zealand,'' she said.


A museum spokeswoman said the return this morning of the remains was emotional.

"We're happy that the ancestors are back in Aotearoa.''

The Karanga Aotearoa Repatriation programme aims to repatriate Maori and Moriori ancestral remains from overseas institutions.