The Dunedin City Council has paid $3900 for the leg irons
Mayor Dave Cull pulled from an auction after an investigation
he instigated confirmed they could have been used to restrain
Maori political prisoners almost 150 years ago.
The leg irons were bought from the mayoral fund after
research into their authenticity revealed they were taken
from an Otago Peninsula cave that housed Maori prisoners.
Mr Cull said yesterday the leg irons were historically
significant to the prisoners' descendants and should be
removed from the open market.
''I decided the most efficient way to do that was to buy
them,'' he said.
Dunedin man Steve McCormack, who sold the shackles, said he
and his late brother removed them 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 although the shackles were already Dunedin City
Council property, it was easier to buy them from Mr McCormack
than start legal proceedings.
''We could have spent a whole lot of money going through a
legal process, and that is ratepayer money.''
Buying the shackles was more economical, efficient and
respectful to runanga than going to court.
The purchase was important for retaining a relationship with
Ngati Ruanui runanga, Ngati Mutunga runanga and Parihaka Pa,
Mr Cull said.
A relationship between the council, Ngati Ruanui and Ngati
Mutunga was created after a 2012 hikoi to Dunedin in memory
of the six tupuna [ancestors] buried in the Southern
The North Island descendants and Otakou runanga would be
consulted on the future of the shackles.
''They are still ours and we get the final call, but out of
respect since it was their tupuna shackled up in the damn
things, we will ask them what they would like to see happen
Mr McCormack said Mr Cull paid more than the initial auction
''I got what I wanted and a bit more.''
With the money, he had maintained his car, paid some bills,
bought his daughter an electric organ and would give his son
some cash and would buy some ''fancy'' food.
Mr McCormack believed he had done the right thing by taking
the shackles to auction because auctioneer Kevin Hayward was
licensed to sell Maori artefacts and relics.
Otakou runanga elder Edward Ellison said securing the
shackles was a positive.
Mr McCormack should not have benefited financially, Mr
''They were property of the city, as I understand it, and
they are heritage, historic items.''
A Parihaka Pa spokesman, Ruakere Hond, of New Plymouth, said
if Mr McCormack believed the shackles had historical
significance, he should have surrendered them rather than
risking losing a historic artefact to a foreign collector.
Mr Cull stopped the auction of the shackles earlier this
month and launched an authenticity investigation after Mr
Hond labelled the sale ''obscene and morally repugnant''.
Hayward's Auction House owner Kevin Hayward said the council
paid $3500 for the leg irons, plus a 10% commission and GST
on the commission.