Question: Did Maori own all the Moa?

A Moa bone, not the Moa bone

A Moa bone, not the Moa bone

A Hawera man is trying to selling fossils he claims are dog bones, dog teeth and Moa bone fragments.

A war of words has flared up between a museum curator and a Hawera man who is trying to sell moa bones through an online auction.

Whanganui Regional Museum natural history curator Mike Dickison   has criticised the listing of a handful of bone fragments.

But the seller, who wanted to be known only as Ray, has defended his actions, saying he found the bones while walking along a south Taranaki beach several years ago.

Ray this week listed fossils he says are dog bones, dog teeth and moa bone fragments, with reserves starting at just a few dollars.

Dickison  said there was no proof that the items were not dug up from a known archaeological site.

It is illegal to damage, modify or destroy excavation sites.

“From the condition of the bones, moa experts have said that this material is archaeological material,” he said.

Ray  said the bones would have succumbed to the elements if he had not picked them up.

“If I don’t pick it up, it’s going to be destroyed and gone forever,” he said.

“I’ve seen people walking along the same area crunching the bones under their feet.

“They just think they are cow bones.

“I can’t help myself. I just have to collect things.”

He said all the items for sale were  found on top of the sand and had not been dug up.

Dickison said that if  Ray was selling the objects overseas without a permit he was in violation of the Protected Objects Act.

Ray, who says he is a registered collector of taonga tuturu, said he would stop selling the items if what he was doing was deemed to be illegal.

Registered collectors are allowed to  buy privately owned taonga tuturu and must make their collections available for examination by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

Taonga tuturu means the object relates to Maori culture, history or society and was manufactured, imported or used by Maori at least 50 years ago.


Is a specific Moa bone automatically related to Maori culture?  What about history or Maori society?

It was not manufactured or imported.  But it can have been used by Maori “over 50 years ago”.  You know, as they were cooking the meat stuck to it.

Do you own all the chicken bones you have ever eaten chicken off?   Is it fair to say you have a historical relationship with it?

How do you see this situation?


– Laird Harper, Taranaki Daily News


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  • john Doe

    If Maori own all of the air waves, all of the fore shore and all of the rivers and all of the fishery, ….then yes, it goes without saying that since they ate the Moa to extinction, the very least we can do is give them the bones.

    • I.M Bach

      And following that thread perhaps we should give them back all the hot air that some of them spout.

  • JC

    To be fair I once had to attend a course on archeology because I was involved in land clearing. My overriding impression was it had less to do with Maori and vastly more to do with a Stasi like mentality of the people who administer the Act.

    At the end of the course we attendees were unanimous that if we uncovered anything we simply wouldn’t report it. I have never experienced such an officious and obnoxious course in my life.. these people are the enemy.

    OK, that was 30 years ago and maybe things are a bit better now..

    but the memory lingers on…


    • jcpry

      From what I have seen they have not. Finding a few pipi shells cost someone I know around $ 30k to in fees and observers protect the site to ensure that it wasn’t something more significant like an earthbound taniwha.
      In the end it was nothing of any significance but he still had to pay the fees. .

    • The wildman

      I agree,my grandad (who was part maori)was helping a friend dig foundations somewhere near st heliers auckland.came across significant maori finds and just knew it was going to be trouble so said nothing and just built over them.this happened probably around 50 years ago.still no taniwha.

  • Herbert Charles

    If that bone was at the surface it would be bleached white by the sun and crumbling to bits . Hes dug it up from an archaeological site and is selling it for his own gain

    • jcpry

      May have been a high tide that exposed the bones for the first time? Might have been a dog digging around? Could have been new beach erosion? .

    • Rick H

      Look at the fine print under the photo – THIS is NOT the bone being sold.
      Just suposed to be a photo of some random other “moa?” bone.

    • The wildman

      Please read the underlying heading it says “a moa bone not the moa bone”

      • Herbert Charles

        Photo Off Trademe from guy selling it. Looks like he illegally dug it up.

        • The wildman

          Not sure how to tell but it looks quite pale compared to above photo which i thought you were talking about.easy mistake for both of us to make.

          • Herbert Charles

            Even the Moa experts think they have been dug up.

          • Pharmachick

            “Moa experts”? All 4 of them in NZ … and absolutely no relationship, collusion or reason for them to form a cabal and make this sort of thing verboten. hmmm?

          • The wildman

            Well he said he found them exposed so he was the only one there when found.i.e only one witness.who to believe???not sure myself.

          • Sweet Lips.

            What say they happen too have been exposed a few days before, it does happen, as sand is a funny old thing, is it not?

        • I.M Bach

          Does the lighter have cultural significance seeing as it could be used to ignite green koha from the Coromandel district?

  • billhicks

    A brilliant doco on this subject to watch is Dinosaur 13.How amateur paleontologists found the best complete T Rex ever found only for the us Government and a Lying land owner to make false claims over the people who discovered it……

  • The wildman

    The maori did own the moa.this gave them the right to make extinct these culturally significant species.
    /sarc if you did’nt notice

    • MaryLou

      Well, they owned the airwaves apparently, and they didn’t even know they existed!

      • Dave

        Never fear, rule no 18 in the maori rule book.

        18. If it is of any vaule, then we own it, owned it, or it was stolen from us.

        19. In none of the above apply, we still own it.

        20. Now we have established our ownership:
        i. How much is it worth
        ii. How much will you give us for it now.
        iii. How much compensation will you give us for depriving us for so many years, physocilogical loss, humilliation etc.

  • Greg M

    Just to make life more difficult, what happens if you were to find something that pre dates Maori occupation? Who “owns” that? I reckon finders keepers should apply.

    • The wildman

      My belief is greg that there is an item/s held in auckland museum being held under embargo til 2029 that proves maori were not the first to colonise N.Z.also there are many “myths” in maori folklore that refer to these people.any more info anyone???

      • caochladh

        I’ll bet that they didn’t die of natural causes, whomever they were.

      • idbkiwi
        • The wildman

          Thanks,great reading.but this evidence relates to a tall,fair and red haired race with pale skin.bodies have been found in coffins and quickly buried for “cultural reasons”.possible celtic links me thinks.observed celtic headstones in europe myself and the similaritys between their desigins and maori (lattice patterns and the koru fern)were exactly the same which made me think….thanks for download,more food for thought.

      • Reaper

        This is rather an interesting story. There are 3 parts. They have traced this woman’s DNA back to Iran.

        • The wildman

          Thanks reaper.a must mentioned lower down in story i found those designs mentioned earlier in scotland.headstones were from around the dates mentioned in download.thanks again.

        • I.M Bach

          So glad elocal had the nads to run these stories, ver interesting, thanks for refreshing the grey matter.

      • Reaper
        • Albert Lane

          I believe that there is a forest in the far north that is out of bounds. There are apparently stories of some stone monuments in this forest that predate Maoris, but we’re not meant to know about them. I’m sure that one of our readers will know the story.

          • The wildman

            Yep its waipoua get broken into and people accosted and told to “go away” from there.apparently the u.s airforce took aerial photos of a small city shaped in concentric rings combined with canals.a forest was then quickly planted over this and is now unofficially out of can you take this story up?

          • Albert Lane

            Unfortunately, because there will be a fresh new lot of topics tomorrow morning, not many people will read your comment tonight. Hopefully Cam will print your comment as an article, and we’ll hopefully find out what’s going on and why certain people don’t want anybody to know about it.

          • The wildman

            Agreed thanks for your support

          • I.M Bach

            I have read about this extensively, there is much that the public are not aware of. You also have my support. Cheers.

          • I.M Bach

            “Unfortunately, because there will be a fresh new lot of topics tomorrow morning, not many people will read your comment tonight. ”

            Well then, keep it up.

          • I.M Bach

            That forest has many secrets. Maori don’t want the world to know they were not the first to arrive/settle in NZ, that would wreck the gravy train.

          • The wildman

            Exactly,i even wrote to time team in the uk as i was desperate for an independant look at this but got no reply.they will be stopped before they start but just wanted to see that happen to know there is something up.c’mon cam please start a post on this subject matter.maybe someone from the museum will spill beans.we need to stop the appeasing gravy train.

          • I.M Bach

            I’m with you mate. The Waipoua Forest thing is the tip of the iceberg; what of the red-haired people? The caskets? I could go on.

          • The wildman

            Yes and i believe the photos/skulls were examined and noted they were not of “pacific” origin.notice when you hear in the news ancient skulls/bones turning up they are quickly “returned”.maoris never used coffins as far as i know.also think they had red hair as well.

          • Reaper

            There is also the matter of the 50,000 skeletons that Maori claimed were “not our people” that were turned into fertiliser.

          • I.M Bach

            That is correct. Tall, red haired and not of Pacific origin. It all makes for interesting historical reading but it all gets brushed under the carpet. Why? All the material pertaining to pre-Maori occupation of NZ was stripped from school library shelves back in the 70’s. Why? The Waipoua forest is off limits to anyone looking for historical artifacts? Why? Same with the Kaimanawa forest. Set foot in these places and you’ll witness bullying and intimidation first hand. If there’s nothing t hide why is there not an independent survey? I could tell you why but I’d be labelled a racist for even mentioning it.

          • Reaper

            This is it. I believe the govt wants all the treaty claims well and truly settled before any information comes out, otherwise it will upset things too much.

          • I.M Bach

            I don’t know why Maori have this thing about being indigenous. By their own admission they sailed to NZ about 7-800 years ago. Who cares if they were first, second or third, I’m more interested in the history of the land than who it is about. If tall, red haired people were here (Turehu) when they arrived then who were they, where did they come from? A feriliser works crushed tens of thousands of skeletons after Maori said “do with them as you please they are not of our people”, so who were they? I quote “For about 12-years during the mid 1860’s-70’s Robertson’s Mill in Onehunga, Auckland ground up tens of thousands of Patu-paiarehe skeletons from the Auckland and Northland burial caves to make fertiliser.” (Link;

        • The wildman

          Oh jeez,i wont be around.this is worth a whole new topic on WOBH.great reading thanks for help.

          • Reaper

            I do recall reading somewhere that that date had been changed and read some sort of govt documentation about it, but can’t remember where now.

            My father came across some archaeologists digging in the Waipoua forest a few years ago and they mentioned the date 2029. So if we can hang in there for another 15 years we might get to know something … :)

        • I.M Bach

          Saw that ages ago, glad to see it brought up again. Talk about cover-ups. The list is endless and every time someone brings up some evidence it’s purported to be the work of madmen, Neo Nazis, racists, nutters et al. Just Google pre-Maori NZ and see what pops up.

    • I.M Bach

      Greg, there is quite a bit of info’ out there to suggest there were people in NZ before Maori but don’t talk about it or we’ll be labelled as racist nutbags. Just Google pre-maori NZ and see what you come up with. It can’t all be b/s.

  • Reaper

    So a spade or some other tool used by a Maori only 50 years ago is a taonga? I must have a few taonga out in the shed. Do I have to hand them in to someone?

    • Rick H

      Yes, 50 years sounds like a lifetime ago – for some it is; but it was as recently as 1965.
      Now, that sounds a lot more recent, for some reason.

    • The wildman

      If they can prove they lifted one,yes.think your safe.

  • Yeahright

    History is “all” off history, just not a few select time periods. As far as I am aware Moa predate Maori!

  • timemagazine

    Mr. Mallard could know the answers.

  • Steve (North Shore)

    There will be many bones that Moari will hope are never found, human ones with teeth marks on them. Do Moari also own them?

  • steve and monique

    Maori found them, ate them, and wiped them out. But at no time did they own them

    • Bluemanning

      Maori also ate out the Moa eggs thereby accelerating their extinction.
      Great conservationists however they probably were very hungry.

      • steve and monique

        Lucky we had muskets, or they may have done us in to.

      • I.M Bach

        And/or probably lazy, as their method of hunting was to set fire to the bush and slaughter anything that ran from the flames.

        • Tony

          it takes skill to catch those eggs you know

          • I.M Bach

            Humpty Dumpty wouldn’t have stood a chance on the Kaimanawa Wall.

    • Ghost

      What, the Moa or Moriori? :)

      • steve and monique


        • I.M Bach

          Did they get fries with their Moriori? (Or did they just fry the Moriori?) ;)

          • steve and monique

            wonder if they upsized

          • I.M Bach

            They’ve been upsizing ever since mate. Both physically and financially.

  • Rex

    It always gets to me that maori consider themselves guardians of the earth, rivers you name it. BUT it is maori who wiped out and ate the Moa and would also have wiped out and eaten each other had not the English intervened!

    • Pharmachick

      **Cough**, **Cough** … as Basil Fawlty might say “Don’t mention the Moriori”.

      • I.M Bach

        Or the turehu…

  • idbkiwi

    I read several papers about the “moa-hunters” and the finds of remains during the Xmas break (it’s just what I do) taken from old copies of the “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute” on What I read backs up our trade-me seller “Ray” and yeahright below. One paper by either (I think) Hector or Mantell (founders of the Dominion Museum) mentioned a large number of ovens containing midden, moa bones and dog bones uncovered after a storm on the Taranaki coast had eroded large sand-dunes and revealed them. He stressed there were a large number.

    The writer noted the similarity of the find to the numerous ones uncovered after burning off tussock in Canterbury, namely: the ovens sometimes contained dog bones alongside moa bones, but not always. (It had been surmised that dogs injured in the hunt became part of the dinner) The moa-hunter ovens were uncovered 12-15 inches below the level of similar maori ovens strongly suggesting an earlier geological period. No maori oral history existed of a moa-hunt. The moa-hunters camps dog remains were not of the “maori dog”, it was a different species having a narrower jaw.

    The writer lamented that he would not have time to explore them all and unfortunately moa bones disintegrate quite quickly if left to the elements. Perhaps trademe’s Ray has stumbled upon a similar find, his story rings true. As for the moa-hunters being maori, where’s the fit?

  • Saggy

    The Maori owned the Moa pretty much the same way they owned the Moriori. But we don’t talk much about them.

    • Albert Lane

      Was it Idi Amin who was asked about the United Nations troops who were sent to his country? The answer (so we’re told) was “Send more. The last batch was delicious”.

      • I.M Bach

        That’s a bit close to the bone.

  • Curly1952

    I see the Whanganui Regional Museum has poked its nose in. I hope the real Wanganui Regional Museum has a response!!

  • Tom

    Maori don’t own anything here. They are not indigenous and came here by transport like everyone else. Its not rocket science.
    And no I live in Wanganui and theres no H. Check a map from a reliable source.

    • I.M Bach

      Tom. At some stage in my life I’d not only like to meet you but I’d like to shake your hand and buy you a beer.

      PS: I’ve spent a lot of time in no -h Wanganui, (Boydfield St specifically) nice place.

  • Aucky

    Can’t sell cultural objects fifty years old? So does that mean I can’t sell my Howard Morrison records without paying some koha to the local taniwha?

    • Saggy

      Aucky to refer to “local Taniwha” suggests they already exist, they are regional and there are a finite number of them. I don’t think this is correct as new ones pop up all over the place wherever you want to do something and are seen to have deep pockets. Just out of interest has anybody wondered what happens if you don’t pay these creatures? Isn’t that why we have social welfare?

  • tinfoilhatguy

    50 years ago is 1965 – that’s a lot of historically significant Lion Red cans.

    • I.M Bach

      They are trying their best to hunt them into extinction are they not?

  • Dumrse

    I am very aware of a stone adze found 35 years ago. I guess the owner has 15 years left to sell it off and pocket the coin before being liable for Koha.

  • Canucktoo

    Get this – as a kid in Invercargill 45+ years ago I found an beautiful adze in a local park. Took it to the Southland museum where I was told “we don’t want it, take it home”. It still sits on one of my display shelves to this day. Might just list the sucker on eBay as the kids have zero interest in it – wonder if the archeology police will knock on the door?!??

  • I.M Bach

    Dear Maoridom. Get a life. Signed. The World.

  • Warren Murray

    While domesticated animals are property of their owner, I don’t think that applies to wild animals. Cam, you’re a keen hunter, aren’t you? Who owns the wild animals that you hunt? Do they ‘belong’ to the owner of the land you are on when hunting?

    When a wild animal kills another wild animal, who owns the remains?

    The notion that current living Maori own native flora and fauna (living and dead) is a bit fanciful for me, as it then begs the question as to who among the current Maori can claim this?

    I think the law of finders keepers is the most pragmatic law to apply here.

    As seen with James Takamore’s remains, it gets very messy, very quickly.

  • Tony

    Maori did not have complete ‘domain’ over the area currently known as NZ so there is no substance to this argument. Notwithstanding, I would be happy to agree that Moa ‘belonged’ to maori as this would mean that they have admitted to wiping them out – demonstrating that Maori are not at one with nature and are people after all (just like the rest of us!)

  • NotGandalf

    ahhh, but Maori will claim a special (even spiritual) link to the Moa bones, as if they, and only they can lay claim to anything (radio spectrum anyone?)
    OK I am being churlish to a degree having heard the old standard too many times, but dont be surprised if lawyers acting for Iwi find themselves with another payday – and they wont care who is filling the trough.