The Maori king has come out in support of Waikato Museum retaining Tainui's Te Winika, saying he has confidence in their care of the historic canoe.
The waka was slightly damaged in a fire at the museum on Sunday, prompting calls from former curator and restorer Mamae Takerei to question whether the tribe should take it back into their care.
However, in a statement, King Tuheitia said it was best the waka stay with the city it was gifted to 41 years ago.
"My mother gifted Te Winika to the museum to provide a link between the Kingitanga and the people of Hamilton, and beyond. I still support that kaupapa."
The waka was built by Ngati Tipa of Tuakau, Ngati Maru of Hauraki and Ngati Mahanga of the western Waikato coast two centuries ago.
Eighty-year-old Ereni Ashley, granddaughter of Ranui Maupakanga, the master carver picked by Princess Te Puea Herangi in the 1930s to restore the waka, said she recalled the korero and photographs of her koro with Te Winika.
"It saddens me that this has happened."
Te Puea was the granddaughter of the second Maori king Tawhiao Te Wherowhero and was credited with reviving the Kingitanga movement among Tainui descendants in the 20th century.
Ashley said the princess came to their whanau marae of Rakaunui in Kawhia for the annual Pokai hui.
It was there Te Puea asked for help to restore the waka that had been dismantled by colonial forces in the aftermath of the NZ Wars and left along the shores of the Waikato; submerged in water and mud for 70 years.
Hamilton City Council community manager Lance Vervoort said the museum was well equipped and he was confident in its ability to care for Te Winika. "It's one of the most important artefacts in our museum, we treat it with great care, and we're honoured to have it on display with the support of the king's office.
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