A New Zealand seafront town has banned a replica of Captain Cook’s ship Endeavour from docking there to mark 250 years since the explorer’s arrival after an outcry from the local indigenous Māori community.
An Australian replica of the former merchant collier is part of a flotilla circumnavigating New Zealand next month for a series of events that “acknowledges the first onshore encounters between Māori and Pākehā in 1769-70”.
It was due to visit Mangonui, in the North Island, but the stopover was cancelled by the NZ Ministry of Culture and Heritage after complaints from local indigenous figures.
Anahera Herbert-Graves, the head of Northland’s Ngāti Kahu iwi, or tribe, told Radio New Zealand (RNZ): “He [Cook] was a barbarian. Wherever he went, like most people of the time of imperial expansion, there were murders, there were abductions, there were rapes, and just a lot of bad outcomes for the indigenous people.
“He didn’t discover anything down here, and we object to Tuia 250 using euphemisms like ‘encounters’ and ‘meetings’ to disguise what were actually invasions.”
Cook, the preeminent British explorer of the Pacific in the 18th century, has connections with many of the UK’s former territories in the region, including New Zealand and neigbour Australia where the issue of the visit is also making news:
Tensions have been rising for more than a year before the planned celebrations. In Gisborne, the council decided to remove a statue of Cook after it was repeatedly vandalised, rejecting any suggestion a commemoration of the British explorer’s encounters with indigenous New Zealanders was worthy of merit.
Cook and the crew of the Endeavour landed in Gisborne’s Poverty Bay in 1769 and the first significant meetings of Europeans and Māori took place nearby. The name Poverty Bay has in itself caused controversy – its original name was Tūranganui-a-Kiwa before being renamed by Cook.
In March, the Cook Islands in the South Pacific began considering a name change to reflect its Polynesian heritage, with Avaiki Nui an early frontrunner. The name “must have a taste of our Christian faith, and a big say on our Māori heritage. And it must instil a sense of pride in our people, and unite our people,” Danny Mataroa, chair of the name change committee, told RNZ Pacific.
A referendum was previously held in 1994, when Cook Islands voters opted against a name change.