A medal gifted to a Ngapuhi chief in 1806 feared to be lost to his descendants forever after it was sold at auction in Sydney is on its way back to New Zealand after Te Papa and the Auckland Museum joined forces on the winning bid.

The engraved silver taonga was given to Bay of Islands chief Te Pahi by Philip Gidley King, the third Governor of New South Wales.

Nothing was known of its whereabouts until it resurfaced in Sydney more than 200 years after Te Pahi was killed by British whalers in 1810.

It was auctioned this week for more than $300,000 despite efforts by descendants to halt proceedings.


Relative Hugh Rihari said his whanau were concerned that if the medal was auctioned off it would be lost to them for ever. They had even considered legal action to halt the sale.

A shared guardianship relationship will be arranged between the two museums and Te Pahi's descendants.

Mr Rihari, a Ngapuhi kaumatua, was delighted to hear the news.