Tuia – Encounters 250

Page 1 – Introduction

Replica of Cook’s Endeavour
Replica of Cook’s Endeavour and the waka Te Awatea Hou, 1996 (The Picton Historical Society)

2019 marks the ‘sestercentennial’ (250th anniversary) of the first meetings between Māori and Europeans following the arrival of James Cook and the Endeavour at Tūranga (Gisborne) in early October 1769. A national commemoration, Tuia – Encounters 250, will acknowledge this pivotal moment in our nation’s history and the extraordinary feats of the Pacific voyagers who reached and settled in Aotearoa centuries earlier.

We have created a section on NZHistory, Encounters, to provide resources and information to support understanding of early voyaging and encounter history in New Zealand.

Key resources

Encounters – histories of Polynesian and European voyaging and first encounters

Pre-1840 contact – articles relating to Māori-Pakehā relations before the Treaty of Waitangi

Tuia 250 will reflect our dual history, our first encounters, who we are today and our future together.  One of the key events of these commemorations will be a three-month journey during which a flotilla of vessels representing Māori/Pacific and European voyaging traditions will visit a number of sites of significance. This spectacular event will provide opportunities to reflect on the impact of this voyaging in shaping our dual heritage as a country.

Fifty years ago, the scope of the bicentenary was much narrower. It was almost exclusively a celebration of the navigational feats and achievements of Cook. A Māori perspective was largely absent. So too was any recognition of the role of the Tahitian chief and navigator Tupaia in these early encounters. Separated from their homelands for perhaps 500 years, Māori saw Tupaia as a link to their ancient past. Many remembered the Endeavour as ‘Tupaia’s waka’, not Cook’s.

The Endeavour left New Zealand nearly six months later without the loss of a single member of its crew, a fact largely attributable to Tupaia’s mediation skills. But despite his best efforts, Tupaia was unable to prevent instances of violence in which Māori were killed or wounded by the Endeavour’s crew.

How do we reconcile this with Cook’s overall legacy? In the long term, Cook’s arrival opened the door for Britain’s colonisation of New Zealand. Within a century of his first visit, Māori were outnumbered by European settlers and large parts of the country had experienced war and suffering. Māori sovereignty, economic strength and cultural vitality were undermined as a result. How can we use Tuia 250 to consider these more complex, longer-term issues associated with contact?

With any commemoration, it is reasonable to ask exactly what and who we are commemorating. Is this, as in 1969, a celebration, an attempt to provide a unifying experience engendering a sense of shared identity or pride? Or is it a protest against an ‘invasion’ and colonisation? Maybe it is something more complex and nuanced that sits between these two viewpoints. During 2019, new material will continue to appear on this site to support those exploring this theme.

Further information

Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara, produced by the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, is the complete guide to New Zealand’s peoples, environment, history, culture and society. ‘Te ara’ in Māori means ‘the pathway’ and Te Ara offers many pathways to understanding New Zealand. It contains 24 sections, many of which contain information relevant to Tuia – Encounters 250

  • Learn about Māori origins and arrivals to Aoteroa New Zealand, including their migrations from the Pacific, and many other stories here.
  • Explore the story of Hawaiki, the traditional Māori place of origin, and its significance here.
  • Follow the debates and science surrounding uncovering the date New Zealand was first settled here.
  • Find out about the canoe traditions from the different iwi and regions of New Zealand here.
  • Read about the history of the European exploration of the Pacific and New Zealand, including by Abel Tasman, James Cook and later explorers, here.

You can also start your exploration of the history of your region here.

Also included in Te Ara is the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, where you can find biographies those involved in early encounters between cultures, including Abel Tasman, Tupaia, James Cook, Te Horeta and Te Pahi.


The site features information and resources produced in the Research and Publishing Group of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Relevant to Tuia – Encounters 250 are:

  • the pages about early encounters and the other stories about pre-1840 contact between Māori and Europeans. 
  • the stories of the Go-betweens, who were intermediaries (kaiwhakarite) – people from one culture who lived within the other culture and helped bridge the gap between the two. You can also find information about other early settlers in New Zealand, including the whalers and sealers
  • a web-feature about the history of New Zealand from 1869-1914, the period when New Zealand was transformed from an exclusively Māori world into one in which Pākehā dominated numerically, politically, socially and economically.


Activities and material for teachers and students:

How to cite this page

'Tuia – Encounters 250', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 4-Oct-2021

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