The Maori Land Court has ruled that a taonga tuturu, or artefact, found north of Wellington belongs to Ngati Toa and not the man who discovered it.
Noel Comerford claimed ownership of the pounamu heitiki (greenstone pendant) after he found it on the Plimmerton foreshore in 2009.
Ngati Toa claimed traditional ownership as the item was found near what historically has been acknowledged as its principal pa (village).
In his ruling Judge Layne Harvey noted that the heitiki was a rare and excellent example of pre-colonial craftsmanship, but that the item's style could not be ascribed to a particular iwi.
Unable to ascertain actual ownership, Judge Harvey upheld Ngati Toa's claim as the heitiki was found within its rohe.
Mr Comerford, who wanted the heitiki displayed in Porirua's Pataka museum, is to be acknowledged by Ngati Toa as the taonga's finder.