The remaining 25 taonga in the Rotorua Museum have been safely removed into specialised storage facilities today.

Rotorua Lakes Council said this was to prepare for the construction phase of the Rotorua Museum repair work, due to get under way mid-2019.

The Rotorua Museum team worked alongside expert consultants and staff from Te Papa Tongarewa and Tāmaki Paenga Hira to load the 40 crates on to specialist air ride suspension trucks, ensuring smoother transport.

The artefacts were in the newer, southern end of the museum, the Don Stafford Wing, and due to their size and the complex relocation process, were the last to be moved.

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The beautifully carved pātaka, Te Oha, was broken down to fit into 17 individual crates. Photo / Supplied
The beautifully carved pātaka, Te Oha, was broken down to fit into 17 individual crates. Photo / Supplied

While many of the taonga will remain in Rotorua during construction, due to the limited availability of controlled environment storage space, some are returning to New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, and Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira for safekeeping.

Since opening the Don Stafford Wing in 2011, the iconic Pūkaki has welcomed visitors to the Ngā Pūmanawa o Te Arawa exhibition at Rotorua Museum.

This 182-year-old carving depicts the revered Ngāti Whakaue rangatira (chief) who was a great military leader.

The Rotorua Museum team will continue to care for Pūkaki alongside more than 55,000 items within its collection.

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Rotorua Museum operations manager Cat Jehly said the complex planning around safely moving the objects had taken more than a year.

"Discussions and co-ordination with lenders and whānau began very early on, with guidance from Te Pukenga Kōeke o Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa and Ngāti Whakaue.

Pukaki carried to the Rotorua Museum in 2011. Photo / File
Pukaki carried to the Rotorua Museum in 2011. Photo / File

"Because of the size and weight of these taonga we enlisted the assistance of professional conservators, engineers, riggers, local builders and other museum professionals alongside our own museum team to carry out this project," she said.

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The largest single piece was Te Rangitakaroro, a 6.3m-high carved waharoa which, when crated, is estimated to weigh close to 1.2 tonnes.

Conservator Detlef Klein developed detailed methodology reports for the relocation process including assessing the weight and dimensions of each taonga to determine the most appropriate manner to move each one.

Rotorua Museum exhibition lead Susan Skellern said the museum team and local builders made 18 large crates in the past four months.

"Some of the largest taonga had to be disassembled and packed in smaller crates for easier removal. The beautifully carved pātaka, Te Oha, was broken down to fit into 17 individual crates," Skellern said.

Seventeen crates were required to pack up Te Oha.
Seventeen crates were required to pack up Te Oha.

A specially designed timber floor pathway was created to spread the weight of the artefacts and the machines required to move them.

The pathway needed to ensure larger pieces could be turned in confined spaces and allow for their removal through the museum foyer and front doors.

Some internal entrances had to be widened to ensure safe access for the crated taonga.

In addition to the physical safety of the taonga, tikanga (cultural protocols) were overseen by Te Pukenga Kōeke o Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa and Ngāti Whakaue, including a poroporoaki (farewell) as the trucks departed the museum.