5 Jul 2014

Taxpayers fund recovery of smuggled panels

3:52 pm on 5 July 2014

Taxpayers face a bill of about $4.5 million to recover famed 18th century Maori panel carvings illegally removed from the country more than 40 years ago.

The Motunui Panels - five wood panels carved by Te Atiawa artists, dating back to 1820 - were smuggled of the country in the 1970's soon after their discovery.

They were sold into a private collection overseas where they've remained, despite numerous Government attempts to bring them back.

The Minister for Treaty Negotiations, Chris Finlayson says after the panels' owner died recently, his family approached the government and offered to negotiate their return.

He said they cost about $4.5 million to get back and they may be used in Treaty settlement negotiations.