9 Feb 2017

NZ to repatriate more than 100 Fijian heirlooms

6:49 am on 9 February 2017

New Zealand's Department of Conservation will repatriate to Fiji more than 100 cultural items from the country which have been seized over the past 15 years.

The Tabua gifted to Dali Jobson’s daughter which was confiscated at Auckland Airport by Customs under the CITES Act.

A tabua confiscated at Auckland Airport under the CITES Act. Photo: Supplied/ Dali Jobson

The items, all tabua- the polished tooth of a sperm whale - are highly regarded cultural gifts in Fiji, often passed down through generations.

But laws preventing the trade in endangered species mean that more than 100 tabua have been seized at New Zealand's border, and they are being stored by the department.

DOC's National Compliance Manager, Darryl Lew, said more than 90 per cent of the endangered specimens forfeited to the crown are destroyed, but not the tabua collection.

"I'm very pleased to say we have an agreement between both management authorities of Fiji and New Zealand that we're in principal going to be repatriating the Tabua later this year," said Mr Lew.

"The Department of Conservation would like to hope that it's some reasonable formal event and a cultural exchange to hand over the tabua."

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