Trust & Safety Blog

Medals, memorabilia and the Protected Objects Act

Toki -found -Kotiatia Point -Northland

We all know Trade Me is a great place to help old Aunty Joyce clear out her garage, or find that perfect vintage piece for your new living room.

But, before you trade in old artifacts, there’s a few new things you need to be aware of.

The Protected Objects Act 1975 placed restrictions on buying and selling items that are aged 50 years and older.

The Act is designed to keep New Zealand stuff in the hands of New Zealanders, and gives the Ministry for Culture and Heritage (MCH) powers to monitor certain protected objects within New Zealand.

Under the Act, MCH can regulate the export and import of protected objects, and the sale trade and ownership of taonga tūturu.

Objects are ‘protected’ if they’re considered important to NZ for ‘archaeological, architectural, artistic, cultural, historical, literary, scientific, social, spiritual, technological, or traditional reasons.’

They’re comprehensively defined, in the Act so we recommend you have a read to see if what you’re selling is included.

If what you’re selling is covered, and you want to sell it to an overseas buyer, you must seek export permission from MCH.

Illegal exporters can face hefty fines and even jail time! Also, MCH has the right to seize ownership of an illegal export, and transfer it to the name of its chief executive.

Taonga tūturu are a special sub-category of protected objects.

They have to be 50 years or older, but are also things that relate to Maori culture, history or society, or are believed to have been made, or used, by Maori – a pretty broad definition!

You can only sell taonga tūturu to registered collectors, licensed dealers and public museums.

The Ministry recommends that you ask to see a registered collector’s card before allowing them to take possession – and we reckon you should make this a condition of your trade.

One last thing to note; the Act deals with taonga tūturu differently depending on where it’s found:

  • Found it before 1976? Finder's keepers. If that object has been in your family for donkeys years, you can sell it whenever you want, to a licensed dealer, authorised museum or registered collector within New Zealand. But, you must register it with MCH before selling. They’ll allocated a “Y” number to keep track of it. Most importantly - If you want to take your taonga tuturu out of the country for any reason, even if you're emigrating, you need to apply for permission.
  • Any taonga tūturu found between 1976 and 2005 automatically belongs to the Crown, and should be taken to the nearest public museum with 28 days of finding – not listed on Trade Me!
  • Any taonga tūturu found since 2006 is dealt with much the same – so take it to an authorised museum ASAP. The Crown will try to find the historic owner to reunite the item with its whanau.

If you want to regularly deal in taonga tūturu, you can be a registered collector by applying to the Ministry – easy as!

If you have any further questions just ask the experts! MCH are happy to take your questions, so flick them an email on protected-objects@mch.govt.nz.

The image above is of a toki (axe head) found at Kotiatia Point, Northland and was kindly supplied by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage.

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