Pounamu is a taonga (treasure) for generations of Ngāi Tahu whānau – in particular the peoples of Te Tai o Poutini, the West Coast of the South Island.

Formed millions of years ago deep within the earth’s surface, pounamu has a whakapapa told through intricate stories that breathe life in to the stone and the culture surrounding it. The desire of the taniwha Poutini for the maiden Waitaiki is the most common story which personifies the various types of stone and is in fact an oral geology lesson telling where the resources of pounamu are found and how they came to be there.

For early Ngāi Tahu, pounamu represented power and survival – it was an important trade commodity and well-trodden pounamu trails were established through the rugged Southern Alps connecting the West and East coasts to support this trade.

Today through the Ngāi Tahu (Pounamu Vesting) Act 1997 and the 2002 Pounamu Resource Management Plan, as well as the work of Te Rūnanga and the nine Kaitiaki pounamu rūnanga, the trade of pounamu and the tribe’s ownership right is being reaffirmed in a contemporary setting.

The Pounamu Vesting Act placed the ownership of all naturally occurring pounamu within the Ngāi Tahu boundaries, with Te Rūnanga. The management plan was subsequently developed to ensure the long-term protection, collection, extraction and supply of pounamu and that the kaitiaki rūnanga were at the heart of managing these processes.

The work to support rūnanga development and the industry is being undertaken by Ohanga, the regional development unit of Te Rūnanga which is tasked with enabling and supporting community development through commercial projects and research.

Buyers can log on to the Ngāi Tahu Pounamu website ( and enter a unique traceability code supplied with their purchase. They will see a photograph of their carved artefact and information describing the origin of the stone, who carved it and how it was extracted and processed.

The authentication process also distinguishes Ngāi Tahu pounamu from the many inferior imported jades that exist within the industry and are often carved overseas.

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