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Righting wrongs


The Turanganui rivermouth is one of the world's great voyaging sites.

It was the first landing place of the Horouta and Te Ikaroa-a-Rauru waka which carried Maori to this region about 700 years ago, a culmination of their incredible exploration of the Pacific over preceeding centuries, navigating by the ocean currents, winds and stars.

Then, 251 years ago, Lieutenant James Cook and a party of his crew from the HM Bark Endeavour made their historic first landing in Aotearoa/New Zealand at the same rivermouth. The first significant meeting between Maori and European took place on Te Toka a Taiau, a sacred rock for tangata whenua that once stood in the river.

Part of the unique heritage of this site is how much detail was recorded of the locations and the interactions that took place here in October 1769; the most information passed down to today from any first meeting of two peoples. This relates to the fact exploration of Aotearoa was one of the final extensions of Europe's navigational history.

Collectively the Endeavour's diarists, alongside local knowledge and modern understanding, provide a graphic telling of the challenges, misunderstandings and careless use of firepower that caused the deaths of several local Maori. They also relay the angst and regret of Cook and ship botanist Joseph Banks in particular over what had transpired.

This history of our place was told through a Eurocentric lens for nearly 250 years. The shooting of nine Maori, killing at least four — and causing major repercussions for local tribes — was a minor detail. The story of the Endeavour and its captain was paramount; little was said or widely known about the first arrivals, their history, or the dire impacts of the subsequent colonisation and subjugation of the people of this land.

That unjust stripping from the public record and public sphere of so much of our history is only now being righted. A much richer and fuller heritage is now being shared.

With the iwi of Turanganui-a-Kiwa rejecting the installation of an Endeavour model in their rohe, that has to be respected. It is kei te pai that Te Aitanga a Hauiti are willing to have one installed in Uawa.

Those who think the models should be hoisted back over the city centre and entrance need to realise that is no option for our community now. These models have caused too much angst and division, and we need to move on. It is your editor's hope, though, that in the future we can reach a point where one Endeavour model and a matching waka hourua can be installed on or near the Turanganui rivermouth.