Ngāi Tahu welcomes return of snowflake pounamu

Friday 22 October, 2010

Ngāi Tahu are very pleased with a decision by Judge GS MacAskill, that will see a significant quantity of snowflake pounamu returned to the iwi.

This outcome reaffirms Ngāi Tahu’s ownership of this taonga and returns it to its rightful owner, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.

Mark Solomon, Kaiwhakahaere for Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, says, “The Courts have sent another clear message to the industry that snowflake pounamu is the property of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and cannot be legally sold on the market. This judgment is the logical continuation of a legal process which has seen those guilty of stealing this taonga from the Cascade Plateau convicted of theft.”

The focus is now shifting to recovery of the significant quantity of stolen stone which was not able to be recovered at the time of the convictions and which continues to appear on the market.

Mark Solomon says, “No mining concessions have ever been granted in respect of this distinctive stone so there is absolutely no legitimately obtained snowflake pounamu available on the market. This is stolen property. If you have any, it must be returned.”

Additional Information

Ngāi Tahu and Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio (the kaitiaki rūnanga) are heartened by the number of people in the industry coming forward to voluntarily return snowflake pounamu to Ngāi Tahu and increasing recognition of the ownership rights of Ngāi Tahu by those in the industry, including the Jade Factory, the subject of this action.

Ngāi Tahu would much prefer those in possession of illegal pounamu to return it to Ngāi Tahu voluntarily rather than having to pursue legal avenues including police involvement to recover it, which can damage professional reputations and incur significant costs for those in possession.

Investigations into the illegal possession and trade in pounamu will continue throughout New Zealand. We are aware of a number of outlets and individuals who are in possession of snowflake and others who continue to sell this pounamu. This applies equally to those who have obtained supply without knowing it was stolen.

Ngāi Tahu are very grateful for the ongoing support of the Police in their efforts and commitment to recover this pounamu and will continue to work closely with them to pursue these people and to eliminate the black market industry.