A Lower Hutt charity is pleading for the return of "revered taonga" stolen from its front window after Christmas.
The set of manaia carvings sat inside the window of the Common Unity Project Aotearoa's (CUPA) Remakery hub in the Hutt suburb of Fairfield, but the window was smashed and the carvings stolen sometime after Christmas.
The carvings were gifted to the charity three years ago by men serving time at Rimutaka Prison, and wore korowai made by the wāhine of the Remakery.
"They have sat, as cherished taonga, beside our front door, quietly providing guardianship, connection and strength to our community," CUPA wrote on social media.
"Sadly, our window has been smashed and our manaia have been stolen, something that has brought deep pain and disbelief to us here and the Remakery, and the tāne of the prison that carved and gifted them."
CUPA founder Julia Milne told the Herald the charity grew food, some of which was grown behind the wire.
They also have an education programme running in Rimutaka Prison and maintained a "close relationship" in that area.
Some of the men working in the prison woodcarving section gifted the "hugely precious" manaia.
"They were extremely beautiful, and not everyone understands the importance and significance of taonga," she said.
"It's really tragic for our community here. We really worked hard to try to create something really beautiful in this space of hardship, that's part of our kaupapa . . . so it's really hard for the community when things that are cherished and revered get taken from us."
Whoever had stolen the carvings did not understand tikanga and feeling connected to taonga, she said.
But Milne remained optimistic that if the community "activates", they could bring the taonga home again.
Nothing else was stolen from the Remakery except for the carvings.
"It's clear that they don't understand the cultural significance. They are revered taonga . . . they must come home."
Since posting about the theft on social media there had been an "outpouring" of support from the community. One young boy even brought in his pocket money to help towards the cost of replacing the smashed window.
Other locals had shown up with gifts, which had been "really lovely".
"Even though we know there are some really difficult things happening in our community, there is also a really beautiful story of a community coming together."
A police spokeswoman confirmed officers had received a report of the theft, and were making initial inquiries, including examining whether there may be any CCTV footage of use.