A man accused of a stealing a "precious" greenstone artefact from Auckland Museum says he's not guilty.
The 26-year-old appeared this morning in the Auckland District Court charged with theft, wilful damage and intentional damage.
The man, who has interim name suppression, indicated a not guilty plea and was remanded on bail to appear again in court later this year.
Police arrested the accused last month after the greenstone mere artefact, worth $60,000 according to court documents, was taken from Auckland Museum.
The man allegedly smashed his way through a glass security box holding the artefact.
It is understood the greenstone remains missing.
Auckland Museum director of collections and research David Reeves earlier said the museum's team was deeply shocked and saddened by the missing treasure.
"The [allegedly] stolen mere pounamu has significant historical and cultural value," he said.
The Māori Court at the museum contains more than 1000 artefacts from across Aotearoa which date back to the arrival and settlement of Māori, Reeves said.
"The museum acknowledges the impact the [alleged] theft will have on descendants and has been keeping iwi representatives informed on the progress of the investigation.
"We remain hopeful for the safe return of this precious taonga."
Late last year, a 2m-tall bronze gnome was also allegedly stolen from outside Gow Langsford Gallery.
The piece entitled Thinker, worth $55,000, by renowned artist Gregor Kregar, was placed inside the gallery after its return.
The two men accused of the gnome theft are due to appear in court again in June.