"Police and Ngai Tahu swooped on two Hokitika jade businesses this morning in a search for pounamu allegedly stolen from South Westland.
The Jade Factory and Mountain Jade were both shut while police searched inside. Staff were not letting anyone through the doors.
West Coast police area commander Inspector John Canning said they were looking for distinctive "snowflake" pounamu.
Twelve police officers from Greymouth and Hokitika were involved in executing the search warrants today, removing jade exhibits from the shelves of both shops.
"It's (snowflake) only found in one place, the Cascade Plateau. It never had a mining licence before or after Ngai Tahu had ownership vested in 1997," Mr Canning said.
"Ngai Tahu has not given permission to anyone to mine or remove that type of greenstone from the area."
Mr Canning said the operation could potentially have major ramifications for the jade industry."You cannot hide thieves - the pounamu is calling out to those who can hear. If any business has been trafficing in our taonga they should be closed down.