A collector of 100-year-old Māori weapons stolen while he was on holiday fears they may be sold or taken overseas.

The Herald has agreed not to name the well-known Māori leader.

The man said New Zealand would lose some of its cultural identity along with the artefacts.

The items, several of which are safeguarded under the Protected Objects Act of 1975, included two whalebone patu and a children's taiaha, although dozens of items were taken.

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Mere and patu are both short, flat clubs. Patu are often made of wood or whalebone while mere are made of greenstone. The taiaha is a staff weapon.

The registered collector of taonga tūturu who lives in Waikato came home from an overseas holiday to find his home had been broken into.

"It's all a bit of a shock," he said. "These are part of our Māori cultural heritage. Most of these items would be found in New Zealand museums."

His house, which was alarmed, had been damaged in the break-in with some doors and frames smashed.

Several pieces of contemporary Māori art by prominent artists Clive Fugill, Rangi Kipa and Lewis Gardiner were taken, including a carved musket.

The carved musket is a replica flintlock. Also known as "Brown Bess" the muskets were originally obtained and used by Ngāpuhi during the Musket Wars of the 19th century against other North Island iwi.

There were only two replicas in existence, but each one was carved differently.

The loss of the contemporary art pieces was particularly painful as they were often lent to public galleries and art museums.

The collector hoped the culprit would return the items anonymously. Police said they were investigating the burglary, and asked that anyone who was aware of, or came across, significant Māori artefacts to contact Police on (07) 867 9600.

Alternatively, information could be provided to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

It is not the first time that protected Māori artefacts have been stolen.

In 2015, 14 Māori items were stolen during the burglary of a Paki Paki property near Hastings.

The artefacts were registered with Te Papa National Museum in Wellington as taonga and were believed to date back to the 1800s.

In 2010 a hand-carved whalebone whip handle was taken from historic Clendon House in Rawene, Northland.

It was thought the whip handle was taken from a display case when the house was open to the public.