In 1997 the New Zealand Government returned the rights of greenstone ownership to Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, the iwi’s elected tribal council.
Ngāi Tahu are therefore the kaitiaki of all South Island greenstone, the only known source of authentic New Zealand pounamu. This was a huge moment both for the tribe and for the greater identity of New Zealand.
The importance of the stone to the greater identity of Māori cannot be undervalued. Along with rights to pounamu came the key responsibility of ensuring pounamu can be sustainably managed. This means not just caring for the stone but also protecting and advocating for the rivers it comes from, the artists that shape it and the communities that surround it.
Significant quantities of the jade/ greenstone products marketed as being from New Zealand are actually made using raw stone from overseas.
In 2010 Ngāi Tahu Pounamu began development of an authentication system to ensure purchasers of our greenstone can have confidence the piece they buy is genuine New Zealand Greenstone.
Authentic Ngāi Tahu Pounamu prominently displays both a mark of authenticity and a unique traceability code which, when entered online, identifies the origin and whakapapa of the stone, describes how it was extracted and processed, and tells you who the artist was that carved it. It guarantees that the stone has been treated according to the customary respect and carved with every possible care.
Continuing the journey
Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri, ā muri ake nei
'For us, and our children after us'. Pounamu is regarded as a taonga by Māori, many of whom have a strong spiritual connection to the stone. They wear it with a sense of pride and they believe it bestows strength upon them. For hundreds of years, it has been imbued with legend and stories; and in many families, treasured pieces have been passed down through several generations.