E nga mana toka tu moana, toka tu whenua, tena koutou.
Kei nga manu o uta, o tai,
nei ra aku mihi, ka tukua maiohatia.
Koutou, nga iwi o te wākāinga, Ngati Oneone,
Te Aitanga a Māhaki, Rongowhakaata me Ngāi Tāmanuhiri,
tena rawa atu koutou, e whakatau nei i a matau.
E te iwi whānui, tena koutou katoa.
My greetings to those who bear authority and who are representatives of authority.
My greetings to the Manawhenua who have welcomed us here today.
I acknowledge the Right Honourable Jacinda Adern, Prime Minister of New Zealand
His Excellency Edouard Fritch, President of French Polynesia
Her Excellency Laura Clarke, British High Commissioner
Her Worship Rehette Stoltz, Mayor of Gisborne
Ministers, Members of Parliament
And the many other guests from Turanga-nui-a-kiwa and from further afield who have travelled to share this occasion today.
This morning it was a joy to welcome the crews of the waka hourua Haunui and Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti, along with the Tahitian va’a tipaerua, Fa’afa-ite.
Their voyage here today has brought our earliest human history alive, recalling the Polynesian seafarers who came from far across Te Moananui-a-Kiwa to Aotearoa.
As iwi Māori, you made a home here, the tangata whenua of the last significant landmass in the world to be settled by humans.
Your ancient ancestors were the pioneers who had left Southeast Asia thousands of years before, setting out eastwards into the vastness of the Pacific Ocean.
They became superb navigators, reading the stars, the currents, the migratory patterns of birds and sea mammals – to travel as far north as Hawai’i, as far east as Rapanui, and finally, to their southernmost settlement in Aotearoa.
The communities of Polynesia are far apart, but they are deeply connected – by Te Moananui-a-Kiwa, by seafaring, by language and culture, and by whakapapa stretching back centuries.
So in welcoming the va’a from Tahiti today, we are embracing extended whanau and celebrating the taonga of shared heritage.
In the lead-up to the Tuia Encounters 250 commemorations, wananga around Aotearoa have been passing on traditional knowledge relating to waka, navigation and sailing to rangatahi.
It’s sad that Sir Hek Busby, whose life’s work was devoted to that kaupapa – and who I knighted for that work just this February in Waitangi – did not live to see these wananga carry his legacy forward.
This week will also mark 250 years since the moment when two very different cultures, Māori and Pakeha, met for the first time on land.
There are people gathered here today who are all too familiar with the sad fate that befell some of their tipuna when the crew of the Endeavour ventured ashore in Turanga in 1769.
But too many other New Zealanders have scant knowledge of this period in our history.
They do not know of the initial tragic encounters, when your ancestors suffered the catastrophic consequences of misunderstanding and ignorance by the Endeavour’s crew.
They have not heard of the priest Tupaia, who sailed with the Endeavour from Tahiti and did so much to assist and translate for both cultures, thereby surely preventing greater devastation and bloodshed.
It’s a lack of knowledge that becomes apparent in attitudes that underpin our social, economic and cultural landscape.
In recent years – largely through the efforts of iwi Māori – there has been some progress in restoring balance in the telling of our nation’s story.
Māori have had more opportunities to reconnect with taonga held in museums, Māori artists have taught us all to value tikanga and te Reo Māori, and Aotearoa has been transformed by the revitalisation and adoption of Māori culture.
But there is much work still to do.
In three days’ time, vessels representing our European maritime heritage will arrive here, to join the three waka here today. The sailing ships, including a replica of the Endeavour, will evoke a range of emotions and responses.
This is our time for honest conversations about the past. Tuia- Encounters 250 will contribute to this process, but those conversations must continue beyond the period of the Tuia commemorations.
Our young people deserve no less.
Tuia reminds us that there is never a sole source for history. Our understanding shifts with new evidence and different perspectives.
We have an opportunity to rebalance understandings of our history – to korero and to whakarongo – to tell and to listen to histories that have not been widely shared before.
With a shared and more complete recognition of the events of the past, we can navigate our way forward.
Our ancestors, Māori and Pakeha, set out bravely, leaving a familiar world behind, in search of a new home.
We must draw on the same reserves of courage and resolve as we work together as kaitiaki of our heritage, our island home, and the world we will bequeath to our rangatahi.
And we must be guided by the whakatauki:
Haere whakamua, titiro whakamuri
We must welcome our future with our eyes wide open to our past.
No reira, tena tatau katoa.