Ngāti Wai welcome Tuia 250 flotilla to Whangārei

By D'Angelo Martin

The Tuia 250 flotilla has been welcomed to Whangārei Harbour by local iwi Ngāti Wai. The flotilla is one step closer to its scheduled visit to the Bay of Islands, the home of the Treaty of Waitangi. 

The flotilla entered the doorway to Northland and the scared borders of Ngāpuhi on the weekend.

The waters of Hatea River were calm as the locals from near and far gathered to welcome those who have been at the forefront of Tuia 250. 

Taipari Munro (Ngāpuhi) says, "One of the things that I like the most about this initiative is the main message, weaving and bringing people together."

In his speech on behalf of the home people, Munro pointed out that Kupe was already here in New Zealand long before Captain Cook arrived. A friendly reminder, he says.

"This morning I opened up the discussion to remind people that it was Kupe who discovered these lands. Therefore, the essence that the people bring represents him."

Tuia 250 is now at the tail end of its journey. Next week, the flotilla will arrive in Opua near the Bay of Islands, one of the many places in Northland where Captain Cook visited on the Endeavour and where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed.

Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr (Mātanga Whakatere Waka) says, "All our waka are in the harbour, soon we will carry on our journey towards the Bay of Islands, where our ancestors of the Northland region first settled at the top of Mangahāwea."

Some locals had questions. Ngāhiri Hetaraka (Ngāpuhi) says, "I wanted to raise the question, what does having dual heritage mean? Our ancestors were curious enough to cross paths in terms of forming relationships with Europeans who settled earlier and vice versa."

However, Munro says, "Regardless of what everybody thinks about this, as a people, we still have to look after our guests."

But still, the event and its journey continue to remain peaceful, and Barclay-Kerr says that has been the highlight for him.

"Every time we arrive at different places, we're greeted with respect. All hui so far for this have been equal in terms of that aspect. It's been awesome to know that we come in respect for the call that was given by the people."

Tuia 250 will remain in Whangārei for two days before they depart for their next destination, to where the relationship between Māori and Europeans was established.