Friday, 26 April 2019


Te Pōwhiri taking shape in Te Whanganui o Hei

Tuia – Encounters 250, is a nationwide commemoration taking place during 2019 and 2020 to mark 250 years since the first meetings between Māori and Europeans during James Cook and the Endeavour's 1769 voyage to Aotearoa New Zealand.

The commemoration acknowledges the extraordinary feats of the Pacific voyagers who arrived in Aotearoa centuries earlier and the matauranga (the wisdom/knowledge) of two great voyaging traditions which brought our two cultures together. 

Te Whanganui o Hei/Mercury Bay is one of four landing sites where Māori and European first met during Cook’s 1769 voyage and a significant place for Tuia - Encounters 250 commemorations.  During November 1769, Cook and his crew spent a total of 12 days in Te Whanganui o Hei, during which time the first sanctioned pōwhiri between European and Māori took place at Wharekaho. Cook had also observed the transit of Mercury and accurately established the longitude of Aotearoa on the globe.

Along with Te Whanganui o Hei/Mercury Bay, regional commemorations will also take place in Gisborne/Tairāwhiti, the Bay of Islands/Te Tai Tokarau and Marlborough/Totaranui, each region’s commemorations governed by a charitable trust. The communities of each region are developing commemorative events, activities and legacy projects which reflect the kaupapa (the plan/initiative) of Tuia - Encounters 250 and tell their communities’ unique stories. Te Whanganui o Hei’s commemorations (governed by the Mercury Bay 250 Anniversary Trust) are called “Te Pōwhiri” in recognition of Ngati Hei and Ngati Whanaunga’s response to the arrival of Cook and his crew.

But what does pōwhiri mean?  The pōwhiri is a traditional Māori ceremony of welcome, an invitation of inclusion.  But more than this, the pōwhiri ritualises the movement from conflict (represented by “te pō” or darkness) to resolution (light, “Te Ao Mārama”) or a safe passage through the unknown. Te Whanganui o Hei/Mercury Bay’s Tuia commemorations will honour the metaphor of the pōwhiri - movement from conflict and misunderstanding to resolution, greater awareness and understanding.

Te Pōwhiri will honour New Zealand’s biculturalism and acknowledges its multi-cultural communities. “It is an opportunity for our cultures to share our stories with balance and honesty, to bring about understanding, respect and reconciliation,” Paul Kelly, chair of the Mercury 250 Anniversary Trust. “It is an invitation to our nation, to all of us, to make the decision to create the future we want.”

“Te Pōwhiri is an opportunity for a reset,” says Joe Davis, Ngati Hei’s spokesperson and co-chair of the Mercury 250 Anniversary Trust.

The Mercury 250 Anniversary Trust’s plans for Te Pōwhiri are taking shape and the local community is responding to the Te Pōwhiri initiative with concepts for arts (including culinary), botanical, outdoor and maritime pursuits, education and historic projects being discussed and developed.  “The two Swedish dignitaries, the Swedish Ambassador to New Zealand and Honorary Consul, who visited Mercury Bay recently and their passion for the work of Swedish botanist Dr Daniel Solander on board the Endeavour have inspired at least three projects that we know of,” says Paul.        

A Te Pōwhiri website will be live by late October, which will include a calendar of events and articles and e-newsletters. A Facebook page will also keep the community up to date with developments.  Any individuals or groups keen to contribute to Te Pōwhiri with events and other initiatives are invited to contact Jan Wright, the Mercury 250 Anniversary Trust Te Pōwhiri commemorations coordinator at email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.