NZ anniversary: New Zealand divided over Cook’s landing

New Zealand is marking a divisive anniversary – 250 years since the British explorer Captain James Cook set foot in the country.

Cook and his crew of the HMS Endeavour came to shore at Gisborne on 8 October 1769 ushering in colonial rule.

But New Zealand – or Aotearoa in Maori – had been populated by the Maori people for several hundred years.

Some say this milestone should not be celebrated as it had a detrimental impact on the Maori community.

Last week British High Commissioner Laura Clarke delivered a statement of regret to local tribes – known as iwi – over the death of nine indigenous people during the first meeting between Cook and the Maori. But she stopped short of issuing an apology.

Though James Cook's exploration of New Zealand dominates history books, Dutch navigator Abel Tasman was the first European to catch sight of it, in 1642.

Maori people from Polynesian islands are believed to have arrived in New Zealand hundreds of years prior to the first Europeans.

What celebrations are planned?

New Zealand has planned several days of events to mark the milestone of the first meeting between Maori and Europeans.

On Tuesday, a flotilla of ships including a replica of the Endeavour will reach Gisborne, a city on the east coast of North Island.

Along with the crowds and officials, hundreds of protesters are expected to be present. As the flotilla has travelled around the coast, some Maori tribes have refused to let it come to their shores.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will be present when the Endeavour docks in Poverty Bay.

On Saturday, as she kicked off commemoration events, Ms Ardern called for a more open conversation about New Zealand's history.

"We were only really telling, I believe, 50% of the story, and not always telling it well," she said.

New Zealand should continue to learn and tell the full story of its past, she added.

Why is the anniversary controversial?

When James Cook arrived on the Turanganui River, what is now Gisborne, the first encounter between his crew and the Maori inhabitants was deadly.

A leader of the Ngati Oneone group was immediately shot and killed after what is believed to be a misunderstandingRead More – Source