Greenstone & its Mauri held at the Museum

A Greenstone, originally given to HMS New Zealand, is positioned at the front entrance of the Navy Museum. Find out more about the greenstone and its Mauri.



Mauri is a special power which makes it possible for everything to move and live in accordance with the conditions and limitations of its existence. Everything has a mauri, both living creatures and the forests, land, seas and rivers. Mauri is that ‘life-essence’ the permits these living things within their own realm and sphere. No one can control this life-essence. While a person cannot control their own mauri, it is possible for someone to establish a mauri for some creation, such as a house. When the house is built, the mauri is established as the scared heart of the building. This mauri is the power obtained through a covenant with the Maori gods to take care of the house and to fulfil the wishes, desires, and hopes of the people who will use it for noble purposes. It is possible to return the mauri through conservation and appropriate ritual ceremony.[1]

The heart provides the breath of life, but the mauri has the power to bind or join.’ Translation of ‘He manawa ka whitikitia he mauri ka mau to hono.’[2]


The Korowai cloak [fleet trophy #50] was presented to the Commanding Officer of HMS Monowai upon her commissioning on 30 August 1940 as an Armed Merchant Cruiser. Captain Deverell, the commissioning commander, was advised by Princess Te Puea Herangi to wear the Korowai when in battle or undertaking battle exercises. This, he presumably did as it was recorded that he wore the cloak on the bridge over a pair of shorts. There was also a Tainui canoe presented along with the cloak. Both were returned to the RNZN by the Captain Morgan, the Commanding officer of HMS Monowai when she was released from naval service in 1946. In our search of the fleet trophy material there is an image of the cloak with a piece of greenstone next to it which could be the object in question. There is no documentation that positively identifies the greenstone piece nor is there any mention of it in connection with the Monowai. It does not appear as if the cloak, canoe, or greenstone was passed along when the second HMNZS Monowai was commissioned in the 1970s. Therefore, the Museum does not have a historical provenance for the object.

The Greenstone is an enigma and reason given that it was in the canoe case was that it looked good and fitted with the artefact.  Our best guess was that it was one a few pieces of greenstone given to HMS New Zealand (not the big one that is in Te Papa). The theory fits, but there is no evidence supporting it. The most likely source is from the Warrant Officers’ Mess aboard the warship. It is clear that it is not part of the HMS Monowai collection as its accessioned collection does not feature greenstone. The only other viable alternative is that it was given to one of the Bird-class M/S HMNZS Kiwi, Moa, Tui during the Second World War which would explain the lack of provenance and paperwork kept was very poor. If it was given to any of the bigger ships it should have been accounted for, or at least for there to have been some publicity surrounding the presentation which may have been recorded by the Museum. The cloak and canoe were never taken onboard as fleet trophies for the HMNZS Monowai.[3]


[1] Cleve Barlow, Tikanga Whakaaro: Key Concepts in Maori Culture, Auckland: Oxford University Press, pp. 82-83.

[2] ibid.

[3] Personal communication from Peter Dennerly 23 September 2010