It's a fair bet that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has never before been gifted six freshly slaughtered sheep along with corn cobs, watermelons and sacks of spuds.

That, however, is exactly what she was given after a ceremony at Kerikeri Mission Station on Monday, leaving her a little flummoxed about what to do with the mountain of kai — or even whether it would fit in the Prime Ministerial van along with baby Neve's pram.

The unusual gift came after a ceremony marking the inclusion of two writing slates in Unesco's Memory of the World, a global register of documentary heritage.

''And all this, Prime Minister, is for you!'' Owen Kingi surprises Jacinda Ardern with an unusual gift. Photo / Peter de Graaf
''And all this, Prime Minister, is for you!'' Owen Kingi surprises Jacinda Ardern with an unusual gift. Photo / Peter de Graaf

The slates were found under floorboards laid around 1830 at Kemp House and are significant because they are etched with the earliest known examples of writing by Māori women.

Advertisement

One even includes the name of the girl who wrote on it, Rongo Hongi, the then 16-year-old daughter of Chief Hongi Hika.

As part of Monday's ceremony Ardern presented one of Hongi's descendants, Owen Kingi of Whangaroa, with a certificate recording the slate's inclusion in the register.

Helpers bring out the Prime Minister's gift. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Helpers bring out the Prime Minister's gift. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Kingi, however, had also come bearing gifts — in his case, six sheep carcasses, corn, watermelons and several sacks of potatoes, all from his own farm.

At his command the gifts were laid out on a blanket with sacks of ice to keep the meat cool.

Ardern eventually solved her dilemma by gifting the kai — enough for a good-sized hāngi — to the waka training camp currently under way at Bledisloe Domain in Haruru Falls. The paddlers' funding has been cut this year so they could use the extra supplies.

Kingi said the koha was intended to ''open the front door to a meaningful discussion'' about land his family wanted returned.

''Instead of yelling and shouting it's better to show good intentions and to be fair and kind, regardless of what has happened to us as Māori people. We're here to share now.''

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern inspects the historic slates found under the floorboards at Kemp House in 2000. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern inspects the historic slates found under the floorboards at Kemp House in 2000. Photo / Peter de Graaf