Tena tatau katoa, kua tae mai nei, i tenei ahiahi.
Haere mai hoki, e nga tangata haere moana.
Nei ra aku mihi nui.
Tena haramai tatau.
My greetings to everyone gathered here this afternoon.
A special Welcome to those of you who have sailed here.
I extend a warm welcome to you all.
In 2019, a year in which the world marked the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, we in Aotearoa are acknowledging remarkable achievements in exploration and discovery that occurred closer to home.
We are turning our attention to the oceans that have shaped our human history and culture as much as they have shaped the coastlines of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Three days ago, we witnessed a powerful and proud moment for the iwi of Turanganui-a-Kiwa, when the crew of three ocean-going waka came ashore.
Their arrival recalled a time when the first people to settle Aotearoa arrived more than 750 years ago from Eastern Polynesia.
It was a moment to celebrate Polynesian expertise in seafaring and exploration, developed after millennia of voyaging across Te Moananui-a-Kiwa, the Pacific Ocean.
Polynesians built fast and sturdy craft. Their crew navigated by reading the winds and currents, and aligned their course with the sun and the night sky.
Two days ago I went to the inner harbour to visit the star dome and the waka hourua. I was in awe imagining the reserves of resilience and the extent of knowledge required to make those journeys using traditional navigational methods and vessels.
In the last few days, in the aroha expressed between the people of Turanganui-a-Kiwa and their extended whanau from Tahiti, and in the the exchange of korero and waiata, their shared whakapapa has been affirmed and celebrated.
Today the waka hourua Haunui and Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti, and the va’a Fa’afaite have been joined by three tall ships, a replica Endeavour, R Tucker Thompson, and Spirit of New Zealand, and the HMNZS Otago to commemorate the arrival of Captain Cook’s Endeavour, 250 years ago.
Centuries after that first settlement by Polynesians, European explorers arrived in Aotearoa. First, the Dutchman Abel Tasman, briefly in 1642 and then, in 1769, the Englishman Captain James Cook. Followed shortly thereafter, by Captain Jean Francois Marie de Surville, from France.
They too sailed vast distances, suffering considerable privations in their months or indeed years away from their home countries. They drew on their long traditions of shipbuilding, seafaring and navigation, and Captain Cook became particularly renowned as a cartographer after his careful mapping of our coastline.
After Cook and de Surville, the ships of other nations visited our waters.
It was to be the beginning of Aotearoa New Zealand’s first export trade, with agricultural, mining and timber exports transported by ship across the globe, in exchange for industrial goods from the northern hemisphere.
Ships also carried new waves of settlers to our shores. Like those who had come before them, they embarked on a long and often arduous voyage in search of a better life in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The Tuia 250-Encounters flotilla of waka hourua and tall ships represent those diverse maritime traditions.
As part of these commemorations, they will travel around our coastline, stopping off at various points along the way.
They will represent those different strands of our heritage, and our powerful connections with the ocean.
They will remind us too of our responsibilities to our whanau across the Pacific; and they will focus our thoughts on the need to work together – within and beyond Aotearoa – to restore the wellbeing of our oceans.
The vessels that are here for New Zealand’s Tuia – Encounters 250 commemorations recall also the first onshore meetings of Māori and Pākehā.
The very first meetings took place here, and they ended in bloodshed and the deaths of tangata whenua. It’s a story of pain and loss that is only now getting wider recognition.
As the Tuia flotilla travels around New Zealand, our citizens will be invited to learn about the histories of iwi, particularly in relation to the impact of European arrival.
Our knowledge of the events of our past has shaped us as surely as the waves pounding our shores.
Tuia asks us to re-examine our assumptions and beliefs, to hear the stories that have not been widely told.
It’s a time to welcome many voices, many histories, in recognition that there is no single source of truth about the past.
Our history is constantly shaped and reshaped by individuals, communities, iwi, hapu and whanau, as we search for meaning and insight to help us understand the world we live in, and apply the hard-earned lessons of the past to the challenges of today.
50 years ago, there were commemorations to mark 200 years since the arrival of the Endeavour. Little reference was made to the experience of tangata whenua.
Tuia, by contrast, begins with the arrival of Māori and the history of thousands of years of Pacific voyaging.
In 2019, as we reflect on how far we have come in the past 50 years, we can also look forward to the journey that lies ahead.
There is a sense of new beginnings, new energy to address the challenges faced by our citizens, our Pacific neighbours, and indeed the wider world that is linked to us by the oceans that surround us.
Aotearoa was the culmination of human migration across the planet – the last great land mass to be settled by humans. That migration pattern is mirrored in the many different peoples who have chosen to make their home here.
We owe it to our future generations and to our planet to find more effective ways to work together.
Ehara taku toa, i te toa takitahi,
engari he toa takitini
– my strength is not that of a single person, but that of many.
Our truth today is that a better understanding of our past will make us stronger, and help us navigate the future together.
No reira Tena tatou katoa