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Elation stolen pounamu sculpture recovered

A priceless pounamu sculpture that was stolen from Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa by a masked burglar has been found by police.

CCTV footage shows the hooded burglar, dressed completely in black, broke the sculpture off its iron plinth in the early hours of Saturday, January 11, 2020.

Police executed a search warrant at an address in Christchurch and recovered the sculpture. They are now speaking to a 34-year-old man about the burglary.

The complex’s general manager Graeme Abbot says the team there is elated.

“Our pounamu holds a special place in the complex – it’s one of the first and last things our visitors see when they come to our place. Hundreds stop and touch it every day.

“There was a lot of shock and upset among the team when we discovered it had been stolen. To have it back, relatively unharmed, is fantastic.”

The sculpture of a water droplet (the pools’ logo) stands around 50cm high and was carved from one of the largest greenstone boulders ever found in the South Island.

NgaÃÑi Tahu master carver Fayne Robinson carved the sculpture along with his nephew Caleb Robinson.

“It’s such a relief that Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa has its taonga back. This pounamu acknowledges the fact that NgaÃÑi Tahu used to stop and bathe in the springs as they travelled across the South Island. The sculpture helps reconnect manu whenua to the area,” says Fayne.

The carving was blessed at a special ceremony at Te Runanga o NgaÃÑi Tahu whare at 12.30pm on Wednesday where it was handed back to the pools.

Graeme Abbot says there’ll be more celebration once the pounamu is returned to the complex.

“It’s got a few scratches on it and we’re thinking about whether we get them polished out before it goes home. Some feel we should ensure its pristine before it goes back, others feel the scratches are now part of its story… we’ll think on that.”

“One thing we are united on is that it has felt like something is missing from our place since the pounamu was stolen, it’ll be great to see it back in its rightful place at the heart of our complex in coming weeks,” says Graeme.

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