Tuia - Encounters 250

Creative expression 

of Tuia - Encounters 250 

in Te Whanganui o Hei


Tuia – Encounters 250, a Tier One national event, is a nationwide commemoration taking place during 2019 and 2020 to mark 250 years since the first meetings between Maori 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.


Tuia - Encounters 250 presents a particular opportunity for artists to express the kaupapa (principle/plan/initiative) of the commemorations in a whole host of creative ways.


Te Whanganui o Hei/Mercury Bay is one of four landing sites where Maori and European first met during Cook’s 1769 voyage, therefore 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 Powhiri between European and Maori took place at Wharekaho, and Cook observed the transit of Mercury and accurately established the longitude of Te Whanganui a Hei on the globe.


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


There will be many activities surrounding Te Powhiri, with an invitation extended by the Trust for the whole community to get involved.  


Te Powhiri honours 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, reconciliation” explains Paul Kelly, chair of 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”.  


Commemoration themes for Tuia - Encounters 250 include: Dual Heritage, Shared Future; The meeting of two great voyaging traditions (Pacific and European); 1000 years of Pacific voyaging and celestial navigation; Science, technology, innovation and matauranga Maori; and creating legacies for all New Zealanders. Opportunities for expressions from the creative sector are vast and will undoubtedly enhance an important, historically significant occasion for Te Whanganui o Hei.


The national commemoration programme is currently under development and announcements will be made confirming activities in the months to come on the Tuia Encounters 250  website.  A national flotilla  is a known core element of the programme and is scheduled for mid to late October in Te Whanganui o Hei.  The voyaging fleet is expected visit Wharekaho, where a Powhiri will take place. Around 2,500 people including Mercury Bay Area School students and staff, iwi from across the Peninsula, history and maritime enthusiasts, dignitaries, national media and the wider community will be involved.  


A national education programme and resources for schools are another core part of Tuia 250 Encounters, along with public outreach and information.  More information about national commemorations can be found on the Tuia 250 Encounters website and, for local information, on the Te Powhiri website when it goes online late November.


So far, confirmed Te Powhiri activities in Te Whanganui o Hei  include a mural project undertaken by the Mercury Bay Art Escape Trust, a fireside storytelling evening at the Whitianga Wharf and an expo of local music and poetry hosted by Creative Mercury Bay.  


There is scope for an abundant programme of Te Powhiri activities to mark Tuia - Encounters 250; from kapa haka to weaving workshops to celestial photography, textile exhibitions, performance pieces, dancing, literature, sculpture and much, much more.  It is also an opportunity for local artists and craftspeople to express and share their work on a nationally significant platform.


The peak period of commemoration is during October 2019, however Tuia - 250 Encounters activities will be occurring throughout 2019. Projects and ideas that deliver a legacy long after the commemorations have finished are also welcomed and encouraged by the Trust.


The role of Mercury 250 Anniversary Trust is to oversee local commemoration activities and actively promote and showcase Tuia commemorations. They are not a direct funding body, however there are Lotteries Grant funds and Creative Communities Scheme funds that people can utilise to fund Tuia - 250 Encounters activities.


Do you have a creative idea for getting your sector of the community involved in Te Powhiri next year?  Plans are being made now, and any  individuals or community groups keen to get involved in the commemorations should get in touch with the Trust right away.


Contact: Jan Wright, Mercury 250 Anniversary Trust Te Powhiri Event Coordinator

Contact info:

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