A controversial flotilla commemorating the 250th anniversary of the first Europeans to reach New Zealand made land today.
Tuia 250, a series of events planned to mark the milestone, has been the subject of fierce debate, and protests were held on the shore of Taranganui-a-kiwa, on the east coast of the North Island, directed at a replica of Captain Cook’s HMS Endeavour that was part of the fleet.
One attendee at the landing, Val McGreevy, told the BBC she was there “to celebrate Captain James Cook and everything that he did”.
However Marise Lent, a Māori woman, said the flotilla made Māori people “re-live that traumatisation”.
“(It) is actually quite devastating for us as Maori. Our indigenous rights have been breached over and over again,” she added.
In September, the New Zealand village of Mangonui banned a replica of the Endeavour from docking in its port in response to objections from the Māori community.
The head of Northland’s Ngāti Kahu tribe, Anahera Herbert-Graves, told Radio New Zealand that Cook was “a barbarian”, and in a speech Waikato University academic Dr Arama Rata described the Endeavour as a “death ship” and said the replica would “re-enact the invasion of Māori whenua (land).”
On October 2, the British government expressed regret for the killing of at least nine Māori people shortly after Cook’s arrival in the country in a statement by British high commissioner to New Zealand, Laura Clarke, in meetings with local iwi (tribes).
The Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust said their ceremony with Ms Clarke was to acknowledge the atrocities committed 250 years ago.
Ms Herbert-Graves said that wherever Cook went “there were murders, there were abductions, there were rapes”.
“We object to Tuia 250 using euphemisms like ‘encounters’ and ‘meetings’ to disguise what were actually invasions,” she said.
The Hon Kelvin Davis, New Zealand’s Minister for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti, told The Daily Telegraph before the landing today that Tuia 250 “is about having honest conversations about our history”.
“We’ve always been open about the fact these are not easy conversations to have – there is real hurt that remains for many of our people. The first encounters in our country between Cook and Māori were not a fairy tale, and this is not a celebration of Cook – it’s a commemoration of those first encounters.
“This is also a chance for Māori to share their true history, to tell of their loss, and to do so on a national stage. Māori will be the ones driving the events at each landing site – and the Māori perspective, Māori stories and history will have rightful prominence," he said.