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Renowned Far North Māori carver pleads for return of dozens of stolen chisels

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Far North carver Renata Tane with a few of his chisels left behind after the theft.

A renowned Far North Māori carver is desperate for the return of dozens of “irreplaceable” carving chisels stolen from Kerikeri.

Up to 90 of Renata Tane’s carving chisels were stolen from his shed at NorthTec’s Kerikeri campus Te Pou o Manako sometime over the weekend of April 19 to 21.

Tane, the lead whakairo kaiako [carving teacher] at the campus, said some of the chisels were gifted to him by his grand uncle who was also a master carver.

There was also a set of chisels he received after graduating from Te Puia Māori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua, and chisels used by trainee carvers under his guidance as part of a whakairo programme.

“The chisels from my granduncle have a whakapapa to them that comes through my family,” he said.

“All the chisels have carried my blood, sweat and tears over the past 18 years of my career, not to mention all the pieces that were created with them which form the part of that bond and history.

“All those tūpuna that I’ve carved, all those atua I’ve portrayed within a carved form, all those stories that I’ve made, all have significance in terms of their connection to those chisels.”

Tane [Ngāti Kawa and Ngāti Rāhiri] started carving at age 19 when he was accepted into the Māori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua.

Now 37, he has worked on numerous high-profile projects in the Far North including the entranceway to the revamped Kerikeri Airport and pou at the Opua Marina.

He was also part of a team that worked on the Ngawha Springs upgrade and the Manea Footprints of Kupe cultural encounter in the Hokianga.

Some of the chisels that were stolen from the NorthTec Kerikeri Campus sometime over the weekend of April 19-21.
Some of the chisels that were stolen from the NorthTec Kerikeri Campus sometime over the weekend of April 19-21.

He was in the middle of creating carved pieces for Ngāti Rehia’s waka at Te Ahurea Māori cultural and historical experience opposite the Kerikeri Stone Store basin when his tools were stolen.

Some are inscribed with the initials RNZ [Tane’s nickname], others are marked with numbers ranging from one to 10, and some have distinctive orange and black handles.

The chisels are irreplaceable, he said.

“I don’t care who the thieves are, I don’t want to prosecute anybody. I just want my chisels back, even if it’s anonymously.

“I would tell the person or people who took them that the chisels have huge personal value and carry their own tapu.

“I’m asking that whoever has taken them return them as soon as possible, or if anyone may know something about their whereabouts that they come forward.”

Fellow Northland carvers have already donated a dozen tools to Tane, and others have gifted money to help replace them, including one kind kuia from Te Tii who donated $50.

The theft has been reported to police.

Anyone with information can email Renata Tane at: or contact the Kerikeri police station anonymously.

Jenny Ling is a news reporter and features writer for the Northern Advocate. She has a special interest in covering roading, lifestyle, business, and animal welfare issues.

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