Human skeletal remains discovered on Kapiti Island in early October will be reburied soon.

A Department of Conservation ranger discovered some human skeletal remains on the island in an area of subsidence by the shoreline on October 8.

Police were notified a day later and then a day after that sent the police launch Lady Elizabeth 4 to the scene with a detective, a search specialist, a photographer and a pathologist onboard.

"Our first criteria, from a police perspective, was to see if there was any criminal element involved," Detective Inspector Scott Miller said.


The pathologist estimated the bones dated back to the early 1900s.

"As a result of that we organised for a skull, an arm bone, a leg bone, five teeth and four vertebrae to be picked up and brought into Wellington and then sent to an anthropologist in Dunedin who would examine them."

Various tests by the anthropologist indicated the remains dated back to pre 1900s and was a young female aged between 20 to 35 of Polynesian descent.

A blessing was held in Dunedin before the remains were taken back to Wellington where they have been safely secured at Kapiti police station before the police launch takes a delegation, via the Plimmerton Boating Club, to the island soon, to bury remains in a carefully selected place.

Mr Miller said given how the remains were found, in a shallow grave with a tree over the top, and close to the water, it fitted into burial protocols a long time ago.

"And local iwi have that same opinion."

The three iwi in Kapiti - Ngati Toa, Te Atiawa and Ngati Raukawa - have been involved during the process via a police iwi liaison officer.

Ngati Toa chairman Taku Parai said it had been important that the removal and reinterment of the bones was "done in a proper traditional way that we're happy and agree with".

"It has been a good open process.

"We've been very happy with police, the Maori liaison officer, and the communication between the iwi."