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Government commits $3.5 million towards replica Endeavour

Events that celebrate the November 2019 anniversary of Captain James Cook’s visit to Te Whanganui a Hei are gaining momentum locally, at the same time that the Government is ramping up co-ordination of events nationally to mark the 250th anniversary of the first encounters between Māori and Europeans.

Image courtesy of Thames Coromandel District Council

Mercury Bay 250 Trust hosted a workshop on Tuesday to bring together individuals, community groups, event organisers and businesses willing to have input on legacy projects and events for the 2019 commemoration that will mark 250 years since Cook visited on his first Great Voyage (1768–1771) aboard The Endeavour.

“We had a good turnout and a positive reception to the themes we’ve established for celebrating this commemoration,” says Mercury Bay 250 Trust Chair Paul Kelly. “The next step is securing and developing venues and ensuring that we are ready to provide visitors with a full range of experiences that leverage off this commemorative occasion.”

The Trust has developed three main themes of exploration and discovery, Mercury Bay as a first meeting place and scientific discovery. The themes are showcased on a new website that was created as the platform for promoting the commemoration in 2019.

Ideas being considered include a storytelling venue in Whitianga and projects that enhance the indigenous marine and land habitats that were impacted following these first connections between two cultures.

Mercury Bay is one of four original landing sites for Cook and is significant in Cook’s journey because it was the first amicable contact between Europeans and Maori.

Cook stayed for 12 days with Ngati Hei and named the area Mercury Bay. Cook was preceded many centuries earlier by the Polynesian voyagers and first settlers in Aotearoa including Hei – ancestor of the Ngati Hei people of today.

Ngati Hei are active partners in the commemoration, which will celebrate the exchanges that took place with Cook’s visit and the foundations that were laid for two cultures to share their knowledge, food and customs. During Cook’s visit the local tribes was left with potatoes, which were planted and distributed among the tribes of Hauraki.

Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry has announced a national commemoration to mark the 250th anniversary and the Trust is liaising with a national co-ordinating committee on how to tie in with events in other landing sites.

“Through the Major Events Development Fund, the Government has committed $3.5 million towards a commemorative voyage around New Zealand by a flotilla including a replica of the Endeavour,” Ms Barry says.

Former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley will chair the National Coordinating Committee for First Encounters 250.
Mrs Shipley will visit Whitianga on May 8 and 9 to discuss local initiatives and how the Ministry can support Mercury Bay with coordination and promotion nationally.

Mercury Bay Museum is already advancing plans for a revamp of its exhibition celebrating Cook’s connection to the area and the key themes that have been developed.

“It was an important moment in world history when these three great voyaging traditions - Polynesian, Maori and European – tangled together,” says John Steele, Local Resident and member of the Cook Society.

“It was here in Mercury Bay that the three great navigating and voyaging civilisations of the day met each other - this is very significant to New Zealand historians. The mention of the twin hulled canoes is significant also because off Mercury Bay was the first time, Cook (and any other European) had seen one.”

A replica HMS Endeavour will anchor in and around Mercury Bay with a side trip up the Firth of Thames. The ship will arrive in Mercury Bay after sailing from its first stop in New Zealand at Gisborne. It will then make a brief stop in Auckland, before continuing on Cook’s original journey to the Bay of Islands and Queen Charlotte Sound, stopping in Wellington in between.

Read more on this journey and sign up for updates on the Cook Journey website on www.thecoromandel/cooksjourney under its heritage section.

Whitianga town upgrade in time for Cook 250 celebrations

An upgrade to the Whitianga town centre will feature a navigation theme based on the Kupe and Cook link to the heritage of our area, and right now you can have input on what’s being planned.

The aim of the upgrade is to accomplish an integrated town centre from Whitianga’s Albert Street and its traditional retail area, through to the waterfront.

The Thames-Coromandel District Council is currently taking some proposed changes to the project out to the community for consultation, as it seeks to compress the work into two stages rather than three, with a new budget required for stage 2.

While this is a targeted consultation within Mercury Bay regarding the local rate impact, it’s not a closed consultation and is open to the wider community and other interested parties, so you can have your say.

“We are working with iwi and the local artistic community about how to incorporate the concepts of navigation through public art and other design features," says Mercury Bay Community Board Chair (and chair of the MB250 Trust) Paul Kelly.

"We're extremely fortunate in Mercury Bay to have such a rich Polynesian and European history which we can draw upon to do this.

Stage 1 of the project takes in Whitianga’s main street - Albert St - into an area of reserve known as Taylor’s Mistake and Stage 2 is the balance of Taylor’s Mistake and The Esplanade. Both will be constructed in 2018.

The creek edge would be re-vegetated with paths across Taylor's Mistake which terminate with tall "sentinel" trees marking a place to interact with the creek, among other plans.

“In Taylor's Mistake we want to encourage more events and use of this public space, so along with the development of the town plaza/square, we are looking at play pieces scattered through this area, which leads people to walk down to The Esplanade and the existing playground there.

Meanwhile the skate ramp in Whitianga will remain on its existing site while we look at options longer-term for a skate park site,” says Paul.

In the Esplanade area, a continuous and wide footpath and passive recreation area and children's play area will sit with separate safe boat launching, car and trailer parking areas. A new crossing point to reduce risks between vehicles and pedestrians is planned, with spherical sculptures as visual markers or way-finders.

The majority of work will be completed by 2019 to tie in with the 250 year commemorations at Mercury Bay.

There will be financial implications for the ratepayers of Mercury Bay and the Council is opening consultation on Thursday 13 April 2017 to gain feedback. The consultation concludes at 4pm on Monday 15 May. Use the online consultation portal at: or email the council at

If you’re interested to find out more about the proposal first, a public meeting is being held on Wednesday 3 May from 5-6:30pm, so contact us for details on the venue, or give your input online on our website.

Updated on 28th April 2017