Two precious, hand-carved pou taken from children's graves at Rotorua's Kauae Cemetery have been returned to the family, who say they have not been deterred from returning them to the gravesite "where they belong".

Family member Iris Thomas said she was thrilled to have the cherished items back in her possession. "It was a very emotional moment going in to identify the pou and then being able to take them home. I had a big cry because I was just so happy to have them back."

The Rotorua Daily Post reported on Thursday how carved pou (wooden posts) on the graves of Mrs Thomas' niece Charmaine Hayward, who died at 5 months old in 1977, and Charmaine's brother William Hayward, who was just 6 when he died in 1982, had disappeared sometime last month.

The pou were placed there around the year 2000 by the children's older sister, Toni Lee Hayward, who was also buried there in 2013.


The pou were concreted into the ground above the graves in the Ngati Whakaue section of the cemetery.

"They have got to go back where they belong but we will be keeping them at home for a little while.

"We will try to make them more secure once they are back on the graves but I hope people get a wake-up call and realise taking pou that is not theirs won't do them any good."

Mrs Thomas said she was "beyond relieved" the pou had been returned and it was a "beautiful outcome".

Rotorua police also recovered a number of other carvings and pou, and encourage anyone who has had an item of this kind stolen to contact the station on (07) 348 0099.

A person has been summoned to appear in court.