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First Encounters 250 commemoration launched

Ministers’ release: 29 January 2017

Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry has announced a national commemoration to mark the 250th anniversary of the first encounters between Māori and Europeans.

In October 2019, First Encounters 250 will commemorate the early meeting of Māori and Europeans during James Cook’s 1769 voyage to New Zealand.

[See Tuia - Encounters 250]

Parkinson, Sydney, 1745?-1771. Parkinson, Sydney, 1745-1771: View of an arched rock on the coast of New Zealand with an hippa, or place of retreat, on the top of it. S. Parkinson del; J. Newton sc. London, 1784. Plate XXIV. Ref: PUBL-0037-24. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

“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.

“I am also very pleased to announce today that former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley has accepted my invitation to chair the National Coordinating Committee for First Encounters 250.

“The Ministry for Culture and Heritage has been working closely with local organising committees to prepare for the anniversary in 2019 and the new National Coordinating Committee will continue this work.

“As a former Prime Minister with a strong personal interest in New Zealand’s history and heritage, Dame Jenny has the experience, knowledge and mana needed to make First Encounters 250 a significant commemorative event for our nation,” Ms Barry says.

Dame Jenny says “it is a commemoration for all New Zealanders to own, a commemoration which will lead to a greater understanding of our unique heritage in the Pacific and who we are as New Zealanders.”

The Endeavour replica will visit four of the main James Cook landing sites as well as other harbours from October to December 2019.

“The flotilla will be a celebration of two epic voyaging traditions – Polynesian and European – and the historic foundations of our nation.”

First Encounters 250 will link together commemorative events, including a National Opening Ceremony to be staged in Gisborne in October 2019, scientific conferences, cultural performances and exhibitions.

“This anniversary will be a spectacular three-month long event which will provide impetus for tourism and create significant opportunities for regional economic development.”

Further details of the commemoration will be announced later this year.


In October 1769, James Cook and the crew of the Endeavour, including the Tahitian chief Tupaia, reached New Zealand after observing the Transit of Venus in Tahiti.

Though Abel Tasman’s Dutch expedition saw the first Europeans to visit New Zealand in 1642, Cook and his men were the first to explore the country and interact with Māori – for the first time, two cultures which came to define the nation of New Zealand met.

The Endeavour circumnavigated the North and South Islands, meeting with Māori, compiling the first map of the coastline and cataloguing the unique animal and plant life.

Updated on 19th March 2019