Taranaki, NZ: Te Whiti's stolen mere to return to tomb

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Te Whiti’s stolen mere to return to tomb

The Dominion Post
Last updated 05:00 04/09/2010

PRECIOUS RELIC: The greenstone mere back in the right hands after it was found buried in bush and returned to Parihaka Marae. Police are talking to a 35-year-old woman about the theft.
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A priceless mere stolen from Taranaki’s Parihaka Marae will be returned to the tomb of the prophet it was taken from.

The greenstone mere, belonging to the peace prophet Te Whiti o Rongomai, was recovered on Thursday after being stolen from a glass display case beside the tomb at Parihaka Marae last Sunday.

The alleged offender has family links to the Parihaka community.

Police said the “precious and priceless relic” was found buried in bush near the marae after information was given to Hamilton police, who alerted police in Hawera.

Sergeant Jeremy Bull, of Hawera, said the mere was returned to Parihaka elders on Thursday night “in a small but deeply moving ceremony”.

Rita Rukuwai, a great-granddaughter of Te Whiti, said the theft of the mere had been deeply felt by the elders, and was similar to when precious war medals were stolen from Waiouru army museum.

“It’s a very sad thing to happen, we’re very relieved to have it back.”

It was the first time a theft of a relic had happened at the marae, she said.

“By the way it was buried we think the person [who stole it] was coming back to get it.

“It’s quite surprising – we are not sure why it was stolen. It might have been for revenge, we don’t know. No Maori would touch it if it was sold – it has far too much significance.”

The theft would be discussed by elders at the next remembrance day for Te Whiti on September 18, she said.

The marae had decided the mere would be returned to Te Whiti’s tomb. “We discussed giving it to the Taranaki museum but it is better kept at Parihaka where it belongs.”

A stronger display case would be made for better security.

Mr Bull said the successful recovery of the mere had been the result of good community work.

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