It was a morning of connection and togetherness as those on board the Tuia 250 vessels were welcomed to Whangārei.

Te Matau ā Pohe lifted about 8am to let waka hourua Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti; Haunui; and Tahitian vessel Fa'afaite travel through. Further up the Hātea Awa, kaihoe in three traditional waka were chanting as they paddled to meet them - the sound of pukaea, a wooden trumpet, in the background.

Aorangi Kawiti calls as the waka hourua arrive. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Aorangi Kawiti calls as the waka hourua arrive. Photo / Michael Cunningham

The waka hourua are part of the flotilla - which also includes the replica Endeavour; R. Tucker Thompson; and Spirit of New Zealand - here for Tuia 250, which commemorates 250 years since the first onshore meeting between Māori and Pākehā following the arrival of Captain James Cook.

It also celebrates the voyaging heritage of Pacific people that led to the settlement of Aotearoa many generations before.

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On land, groups who were aboard the vessels were first welcomed by members of the Northland Pasifika community who sang and greeted each person with a kiss.

Moerii Tere, from Tahiti, said her husband had been sailing on Fa'afaite. She described today as "awesome".

"The spirit is great, it's powerful," she said.

Warriors during the haka pōwhiri. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Warriors during the haka pōwhiri. Photo / Michael Cunningham

At 10am pukaea sounded to mark the start of the official haka pōwhiri. Hundreds of people had gathered by this time to watch as wero were laid down by warriors and accepted by the manuhiri being called.

The formalities concluded following speeches from both sides.

There are range of activities continuing today at Hihiaua Peninsula including entertainment, and the Tuia Mātauranga interactive experience. Meanwhile tonight Hihiaua Cultural Centre will host Tohunga Talks with flotilla crew members and carvers from the Rātā Symposium.

Tomorrow there will be an open day at Port Nikau from 10am to 3pm before the flotilla heads to the Bay of Islands.

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Tuia 250 ki Taitokerau is organised by the Te Au Mārie Trust and honours and pays tribute to the late Ta Hekenukumai Puhipi (Sir Hector Busby), a master waka carver who was a leader in the revival of waka building and celestial navigation in Aotearoa and the Pacific.