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Can moa bones be sold on Trade Me?

Selling Moa bones is OK, as long as they aren't found on DOC land or an archeological site

By Trust and Safety 12 March 2021

We all remember hearing the story of the moa when we were kids; the great flightless bird, endemic to New Zealand and long since extinct.

We know the legend of the bird, but what is the deal when it comes to selling moa bones on Trade Me?

The short story is that you can sell their bones, subject to two restrictions.

We are OK with the sale of moa bones, due to the fact they are from an extinct animal.

As such, sellers of moa bones are no longer contributing to their decline.

There are some genuine collectors out there and this sort of stuff is pretty cool for them. These artifacts often end up in museums and the like, ensuring their legend lives on.

But what about those restrictions you mentioned?

While we are OK with the sale of Moa Bones, there is a wider issue at play here which has led to these restrictions.

If you are out and about on the weekend and come across a Moa bone that you want to sell, you may need to hang back.

In these cases it isn’t always finders keepers.

If you have found the bone on either DOC owned land or an archelogical site, you are actually breaking the law if you attempt to on sell it.

The long and short of it is this:

  • If the bone is found on Department of Conservation (DOC) land, it remains the property of the New Zealand government. Anyone who tries to flick of moa bones found on DOC land can find themselves in some pretty hot water so moa bones found there are no go.
  • This second restriction is covered by the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014. Essentially if the bone is part of an archelogical site, you aren’t able to take it. If you were to take it you would need to modify (or destroy) the site in order to do so. Doing so without the prior permission of Heritage New Zealand is a no go and amounts to an offence.

What is an archaeological site?

This is a good question and it isn’t one that has a quick answer.

An archaeological site is defined in the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 as any place in New Zealand (including buildings, structures or shipwrecks) that was associated with pre-1900 human activity, where there is evidence relating to the history of New Zealand that can be investigated using archaeological methods.

If that still isn’t making sense, the Heritage New Zealand site is a fantastic resource and definitely worth checking out.

There are various types of archaeological sites, all of which are nicely detailed here.

It also goes without saying that any stolen items, including moa bones, cannot be listed on the site.

Trade Me works closely with Police where stolen goods are listed on the site.

If moa bones pop up on the site and we are concerned about where they might have come from, we will touch base with the seller and verify exactly where they originated.

If we can’t be 100 per cent sure then we will take that listing down and involve, Heritage New Zealand where appropriate.

Can Moa Bones be sold overseas?

Under section 5 of the Protected Objects Act 1975, protected New Zealand objects cannot be temporarily or permanently exported without the permission of the Chief Executive of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

The remains of moa fall within the definition of what is a “protected New Zealand object” so cannot be sold to Australian members. Read more here.

Learn more about trading taonga tūturu.

What if I don’t agree with moa bones being sold on the site?

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and Trade Me does understand that not everyone agrees with where we have landed on this issue.

However we are keen to offer the widest, most diverse marketplace that we can subject to the law and what we think most Trade Me members will find acceptable.

If you don’t agree with the sale of moa bones, your best bet is to lobby your local MP for some government action. If there is a change further down the track then we will ensure our policy is in line with the law.


Trust and Safety
Trust and Safety