Dual heritage / shared future

Article thanks to the Marlborough Flyer magazine 2018

An event taking place Marlborough late in 2019 has been hundreds of years in the making. It will provide a once in a lifetime opportunity to celebrate the tenacious skills of early European and Pacific voyagers, who helped create the New Zealand we know today.


The year is exactly 250 since Captain James Cook onboard his tall ship Endeavour first landed in New Zealand, after charting large tract of the South Pacific. But hundreds of years before that, Pacifica people traveled thousands of kilometres from their homelands to establish new communities.

Tōtaranui 250 is the trust established to commemorate those early Pacific navigators who arrived in wakas (canoes), as well as remembering Cook’s arrival into Meretoto, also known as Ship Cove in Marlborough’s Queen Charlotte Sound. The relationship that developed between English born Cook and the local Māori was a remarkable one, that will be remembered in style during the celebrations. 


Late November or early December 2019 (dates yet to be confirmed) there double hulled waka and a Tahitian waka led by experienced Pacific navigators will be paddled into Queen Charlotte Sound. Accompanying them will be the replica of Cook’s ship Endeavour, the Spirit of New Zealand, another tall ship and two of New Zealand’s navy vessels.  As Pete Jerram, co-chair of Tōtarani 250 says; “this is a rare opportunity to be part of history. No one will ever see anything like this again.”


Meretoto/Ship Cove was one of Cook’s most favourite spots in all of New Zealand as it provided a safe haven from prevailing winds, fresh water, and ideal conditions for providing the Endeavour’s crew with rest and relations.  A nearby island, Motuara, became a literal vegetable garden, providing much needed sustenance for returning crews.


Over seven years of voyaging, he visited the area five times.  It became a premium site for first contact between European and Māori. In other parts of New Zealand the contact was brief, but as Pete says, in Ship Cove, it was prolonged.


“He kept coming back and meeting the same people and was witnessing the changes that were occurring.”


On his first visit to New Zealand, Cook was accompanied by a Tahitian high priest named Tupaia, who played a critical role in establishing relationships with the local people.  Pete says Tupaia could speak to the locals, and he had mana (authority, presence and respect). “He could talk to the local people about their gods in a leadership role. He was the person who made all the difference to Cook on that first voyage.”


It was his ability to forge the ground between the European travellers and the local Māori that helped make Meretoto/Ship Cove such an integral stop off for the British discoverer.  His time in this part of the world and the extensive writings by members of his crew, played an important role in the later colonisation of New Zealand. “It was because Cook and everyone with him recorded things so well, that in Europe their ears pricked up and they though this is a good place to come to.”


But credit must also go the first people to inhabit this country.  Think back hundreds of years and imagine sailing across the Pacific Ocean in just a waka. Being led by the stars, those people were taught exceptional navigational skills. They understood their journey centuries before Cook began mapping the Pacific and well before he discovered this far flung land, now known as New Zealand.


It is these events, that will be celebrated during Tōtaranui 250 late in 2019. So if you have the chance to return to Marlborough, make sure you lock in the opportunity to be part of the history that has been hundreds of years in the making.


Keep any eye on events by visiting Tōtaranui250.co.nz


In 2019, New Zealand will mark 250 years since the first meetings between Māori and Pākehā during James Cook and the Endeavour’s 1769 voyage to Aotearoa New Zealand. Tuia – Encounters 250 will acknowledge this pivotal moment in our nation’s history as well as the extraordinary feats of Pacific voyagers who reached and settled in Aotearoa many years earlier.

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