A steel sculpture stolen from outside a library in central Auckland 10 years ago has been retrieved by police near Ohakune, more than 300 kilometres away.
The two-metre high Phoenix Rising, by award-winning artist Keith Simpson, was discovered at a home in Rangataua in February after disappearing from the front of the Epsom library in 2004.
An Auckland resident helped solve the theft after spotting the distinctive sculpture, valued at more than $15,000, on a real estate website listing for the house.
A search warrant was issued and the sculpture- weighing about 15 kilograms - was found in a loft bedroom at the vacant house.
Constable Lane Demchy told police magazine TenOne the sculpture had been tucked away in a rickety sleepout that was accessible only up a ladder and through a manhole.
"It was one of the more unusual jobs," Demchy said.
No charges have been laid over the theft.
Police were trying to track down the owners of the home, who now live in Australia, Demchy said.
The Auckland Council said it was awaiting the sculpture's return.
Council libraries service delivery manager Corrina Meikle told the magazine "it was quite a surprise to hear of it being found".
"We're looking forward to getting the artwork back and we're thinking about where we might put it," Meikle said.
After the theft Simpson was commissioned to create a new, slightly larger, Phoenix Rising sculpture, which remains at the library.
A police spokeswoman said inquiries into the theft were ongoing.
Police in Ohakune were planning to put the sculpture on a car's roof racks and drive it back to Auckland, she said.