Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull yesterday stepped in and stopped
the auction of a historic item, claimed to be leg irons, and
instigated an investigation into their authenticity.
Mr Cull said he stopped the sale at Hayward's Auction House
yesterday to ensure artefacts were not released on the open
An investigation would reveal their authenticity, he said.
If they were found to be authentic leg irons, the Dunedin
City Council would consider buying them as they would be
significant to the Parihaka community in Taranaki, ''which is
why I stepped in to secure these''.
Dunedin man Steve McCormack, who is trying to sell the item,
said he and his late brother removed the ''leg irons'' from a
cave in Portobello Rd in the 1970s.
The cave is in an area where Maori prisoners from Taranaki
were forced to labour between 1869 and 1871.
Mr Cull said Mr McCormack would be interviewed as part of the
Toitu Otago Settlers Museum acting director Jennifer Evans
said it was working to authenticate the shackles. The release
date of investigation findings was not yet known, she said.
A Parihaka spokesman, Ruakere Hond, of New Plymouth, said the
auction of the ''stolen'' shackles was ''obscene and morally
An auction would be an ''insult'' to the men imprisoned
illegally in caves in Dunedin.
''The people of Parihaka, the descendants of the prisoners
incarcerated with hard labour for their beliefs, want to have
it known that this sale is reprehensible,'' he said. Mr
McCormack should not benefit financially from the sale of the
shackles, Mr Hond said.
However, Mr McCormack said he would still sell the irons.
He said Mr Hond should be appreciative he had preserved the
leg irons and if the Parihaka people wanted the item, they
could place a bid.
''I'm not giving them away.''
However, Dunedin historian Bill Dacker said the shackles,
which were pictured in the Otago Daily Times on
Tuesday, were not leg irons but horse hobbles.
The cave where Mr McCormack found the shackles was big enough
to house a horse and had no history of housing prisoners, Mr
Mr McCormack could have wrongly mistaken the cave for a
prison when he entered it in the early 1970s, Mr Dacker said.
''He could have seen places for tethering horses.''