A taonga gifted to a Ngapuhi chief that was auctioned off in Sydney for more than $300,000 will return to New Zealand after being purchased by Te Papa and the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

The Herald can reveal that the two museums made a joint purchase of the engraved silver medal was given to Bay of Islands chief Te Pahi by Philip Gidley King, the third governor of New South Wales, in 1806.

It was auctioned in Sydney - reportedly for A$300,000 ($325,000) - despite efforts by the chief's descendants to halt proceedings.

Te Pahi's relative Hugh Rihari said nothing was known of the medal's whereabouts until it resurfaced in Sydney more than 200 years after Te Pahi was killed by British whalers in 1810.


Te Papa spokeswoman Cherie McQuilkin confirmed the purchase this afternoon and said it was made after "consultation with the Iwi".

More details about the purchase and when the medal would return to New Zealand would be released by both museums later today.