Planning has begun to mark the 250th anniversary of one of the most momentous events in New Zealand history - the arrival of British explorer Captain James Cook and Tahitian high priest Tupaia on board the Endeavour in 1769.

The anniversary, in 2019, will be marked at their landfall sites at the Bay of Islands, Gisborne, Mercury Bay in the Coromandel and Queen Charlotte Sound.

The Northland celebrations will be organised by a newly formed trust, Te Au Marie, or the 1769 Sestercentennial Charitable Trust, co-chaired by Jane Hindle and James Eruera.

The voyage by Cook and Tupaia was significant not just for shaping the course of New Zealand history, but also because it was the first time traditional Polynesian navigation was used alongside European cartography.

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Mr Eruera said Northland still had people with those skills, such as master navigator Hekenukumai Busby of Doubtless Bay, so there was plenty to celebrate.

The celebrations were expected to include a re-enactment of the voyage almost 250 years ago from Tahiti to Aotearoa using tall ships and waka hourua, double-hulled ocean-going canoes.

It was hoped the flotilla would call in at various ports along the way. As in 1769, both traditional Polynesian navigation and European cartography would be used, Mr Eruera said.

The commemorations will be organised by four trusts, one for each of the landfall sites, and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

Ms Hindle said the trustees were keen to create "some really unique and memorable initiatives" to mark the anniversary.

In the coming months they would meet various groups, collect feedback and ideas, and report back as the plans took shape. A wider stakeholder hui would be held in March.

Mr Eruera said plenty was known about Cook's voyages of discovery but much less was known about Tupaia, originally from Ra'iatea in what is now French Polynesia's Society Islands.

Even less well documented was what Maori living in the Bay of Islands in 1769 thought of the historic meeting between the two cultures.

Mr Eruera and Ms Hindle met officials from the Culture and Heritage Ministry in Auckland yesterday to discuss the voyage and its possible ports of call.

Te Au Marie's trustees are kaumatua Wiremu Wiremu, Dame Jenny Shipley, Robert Gabel, Jane Hindle, James Eruera, Tania McInnes, Shane Jones, David Mules, Kate Martin and Te Warihi Hetaraka.

The celebrations' themes will be voyaging, education, ecological restoration, and arts, culture and heritage.

Te Au Marie means "the peaceful current" or the calm after the storm. It is also the name of a group of stars used in navigation.

The 2019 celebrations will be just one of a series of historic milestones for Northland.

Last year was the 200th anniversary of New Zealand's first European settlement and earlier this year the nation marked the 175th anniversary of the Treaty of Waitangi. Kerikeri Mission Station will be 200 years old in 2019.