Taranaki iwi fears for whalebone thieves

7:41 pm on 21 February 2024
Ngāruahine's Te Aorangi Dillon fears for the spiritual wellbeing of the burglars who stole tapu whalebones.

Ngāruahine's Te Aorangi Dillon fears for the spiritual wellbeing of the burglars who stole tapu whalebones. Photo: Supplied / LDR

The theft of whale jawbones and teeth has left a Taranaki iwi fearful for the wellbeing of the thieves.

Koiwi parāoa (sperm whale bones) and teeth were stolen within the past couple of days from a shed of Ngāti Hāua hapū of Ngāruahine iwi at Otakeho, half-way between Ōpunakē and Hāwera.

Te Korowai o Ngāruahine tumu whakarae Te Aorangi Dillon said one side each of three sperm whale jawbones were taken, along with some niho (teeth).

"Someone, or some people, have cut the lock to the gate and jimmied open the heavy middle door to the shed."

Dillon said the raid was well planned as the kauwae (jawbone) parāoa are too heavy to be lifted by one person without disturbing everything around it.

"Transport would have also needed to be a consideration as they are too big to put in the back of a car.

"You would need a trailer [although] at a push, you could get away with an SUV, a ute or a van."

Police have been notified and are investigating, she said.

She asked anyone who has heard of possible culprits, or know where the koiwi have ended up, to tell the iwi agency Te Korowai or police.

"We would like for the koiwi and niho to be returned and your spiritual wellbeing maintained."

Many Facebook messages on the theft have also expressed concerns for the wairua of the thieves for plundering the tapu bones.

One Black Power supporter wrote that mākutu (harm through spiritual powers) could be visited on the looters.

"Don't take what's not yours especially from our people," the person wrote.

It's a widely held view in the Facebook responses, including by Waiora Hohaia Ashby.

"Scary to be them. Asking for a lifetime of pain and hardship doing something like that."

Iri Mako raised the possiblity of an inside job.

"It's so gutting to think that it could even be one of our own who would do this, but only our own knew they [the kōiwi parāoa] were there."

Raniera Toa said the whānau would "really love our taonga back. To those that decided to take these sacred taonga: By now it should be weighing on your mind. Do the right thing and just return them."

* LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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