Huge greenstone haul for GNS
A collection of one of the country’s most cherished natural taonga has been gifted to the people of New Zealand.
Greenstone expert Russell Beck has donated his personal reference collection of pounamu and jade, which will be held as part of the GNS National Rock and Mineral Collection.
The 1500 sample pieces from New Zealand and around the world have become the Beck International Jade Research Collection, which was formally handed over on Thursday at the GNS research institute in Lower Hutt.
Beck has studied greenstone for more than 50 years and has become New Zealand’s foremost pounamu expert. He has worked closely with GNS and Nga¯i Tahu to survey deposits in the South Island and has travelled widely to inspect others across the globe.
He is also a carver and has authored four books on jade and pounamu. He was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to art and local history in 2000.
GNS principal scientist Dr Simon Cox said Beck’s work had been very important to both the geological understanding of the stone and its relationship with human history.
‘‘GNS is absolutely thrilled to be looking after this collection on behalf of New Zealand.
‘‘This collection is possibly the only collection worldwide, to have all the main localities in the world [where greenstone is found] represented. It’s certainly the only one I’m aware of.’’
The collection could be used for a number of purposes such as promoting research on the properties and formation of the stone, archaeological investigations and the study of erosion.
Pounamu also faced pressure as a resource and the collection will be used to investigate sustainability and trademarking issues.
GNS worked in close consultation with Nga¯i Tahu to establish the collection. Ownership of all New Zealand’s naturally occurring pounamu deposits in the South Island were returned to the iwi under the Nga¯i Tahu (Pou- namu Vesting) Act 1997.
Nga¯i Tahu kauma¯tua Sir Tipene O’Regan said the iwi’s relationship with Beck was highly valued and went back a number of years.
Pounamu was an extremely important material to Ma¯ori and particularly Nga¯i Tahu, and Beck’s survey work had been invaluable to their understanding of it as a resource.
‘‘[Beck] has made a huge contribution to our own understanding of pounamu which is essential to our heritage and cultural story.’’
Russell Beck addresses the crowd at the gifting event at the GNS research institute in Lower Hutt.