A more than century-old heirloom has been returned to its grateful owner after a chance discovery on an Auckland motorway.

Auckland woman Julie Denham had given up ever finding the jewellery box she lost when she moved house more than a year ago.

The box, which was inside a courier bag, contained her grandmother's 1900 rose gold brooch, along with a pin of her mother's.

It vanished from a stack of packing boxes being moved from Snells Beach to Orewa.

"In the chaos of moving I didn't realise it was even missing for a few months and after searching for the box I was pretty sure I wasn't going to see it again."


She was wrong.

A motorway maintenance crew working for the New Zealand Transport Agency discovered the tattered courier bag wedged in some rocks while picking up rubbish on the steep, rocky slopes of State Highway 1 just south of the Johnstones Hill Tunnels.

The address of both the sender and the recipient was still clearly marked.

A phone call soon followed.

"Out of the blue I got a phone call from the police in Tauranga to say the transport agency had found my brooch and they wanted to get in touch to return it to me," Denham said.

"I just about fell off the end of the phone, and I ran around saying to my family, 'you'll never guess where the darn brooch is, it's been out on the road all this time'."

Denham had previously lived in Tauranga before moving to Snells Beach and she was tracked down via her old address.

Two road workers personally delivered the parcel to Denham.

"It was quite a sight, these two big guys with their hi-vis vests carrying my little parcel and I thought, 'oh my gosh it's coming home'.

"I'm just so grateful they made such an effort to return it to me. And I promise I'll try and stop dropping my junk along the road when I move from now on."