Marlborough turns it on for the Tuia 250 voyage flotilla

A piece of Marlborough’s heart set sail from Waitohi/Picton this morning, as the Tuia 250 Voyage flotilla left dock for the final leg of its three-month-long journey.


For the past five days, the region has celebrated Aotearoa’s long Pacific navigational history, and acknowledged the country’s Dual Heritage and Shared Future since the arrival of James Cook to these shores 250 years ago.


Raymond Smith, chair of the Tōtaranui 250 Trust which organised Tuia 250 events in Marlborough, said it had been a significant occasion for the entire community.


“We’ve had thousands and thousands of people come along and support and get behind this kaupapa over the past five days. Our whole focus and philosophy has been about us trying to make New Zealand a better place.


The events we have seen here in Tōtaranui/Queen Charlotte Sound have been about nation building and we like to think that the sharing of cultures, the sharing of language, the sharing of food and the sharing of song has helped us bind us together in a way we have never done before. It’s been a treasured opportunity for us all to come together to celebrate ourselves.


This is us; we are a product of this dual heritage and shared future that’s been 250 years in the making."


Events kicked off last Thursday with a moving pōwhiri at Meretoto/Ship Cove which saw the four tangata whenua iwi – Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō, Ngāti Kuia, Rangitāne o Wairau and Te Ātiawa o te Waka-a-Māui – receive the flotilla manuhiri (visitors) who arrived onboard waka hourua Haunui from Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland; Fa’afaite i te Ao Mā’ohi, a va’a moana from Pape'ete, Tahiti; the HMB Endeavour replica from the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney, Australia; and the Spirit of New Zealand from Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland.


The following day more than 4,000 people turned out to the Picton Foreshore for the community welcome, with the flotilla was led in by four local waka tāngata and about 200 local boating enthusiasts.


Flotilla vessel captains described the entry into the harbour as the best on-water reception they had encountered so far on the journey, which has taken them from Tūranga-nui-aKiwa/Gisborne, north to Whitianga and the Bay of Islands, to Auckland, around Cape Reinga, and to Waitohi/Picton.


One boatie said he had never seen anything like it before. "There were more boats than I'd ever seen in the Sounds. It was like the being in the Sydney to Hobart race."


Saturday saw more than 10,000 locals and visitors to the region in Picton throughout the day to take in the flotilla vessels and the free entertainment.


A kai market on Picton’s High St and an evening lightshow and performance by supergroup Fly My Pretties kept the crowds coming and the atmosphere electric.


Tōtaranui 250 Trust general manager Chrissy Powlesland said the turnout from the community and support shown had been overwhelming.


Visitors to the HMB Endeavour replica topped any open day to date, with nearly 5,000 people going onboard over three days. This is a world record for the vessel, which has opened as a museum in 116 ports around the world.


Hundreds more also had the chance to board the waka hourua and va’a, and a special schools’ day on Monday, sponsored by Port Marlborough, saw around 1,200 school children have the opportunity to learn about the vessels, the associated mātauranga (knowledge) and Aotearoa’s rich history of voyaging.


Tuia 250 Voyage Flotilla Kaitiaki Jack Thatcher said the events had been truly memorable.


“Our Tuia 250 team would like to thank the people of Tōtaranui for the amazing welcome that our Tuia 250 Voyage flotilla received here in your waters, the iwi kainga for the wonderful welcome into Meretoto, and to all those that made the pōwhiri a celebration of our heritage as tangata whenua.


“Our thanks to the community of Waitohi/Picton, the Marlborough District Council and Mayor John Leggett for your support and advice to the community to take the day off when the flotilla arrived into Picton. “


The respect given by you all to our waka hourua and our tall ships was a great show of appreciation of our dual heritage and shared future.”


The waka hourua will now make their way around to Te Whanganui/Port Underwood and will be visible from Te Taonui-a-Kupe/Cloudy Bay over the next couple of days. 

- A Tōtaranui 250 Trust press release



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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