After a weekend of powerful haka pōwhiri, whakawhanaungatanga, and the chance to hop on board tall ships and waka hourua - the flotilla's stop in Whangārei has concluded and it will now journey north to the Bay of Islands.

Three tall ships - the replica Endeavour; R. Tucker Thompson; and Spirit of New Zealand - and three waka hourua - Haunui; Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti; and Tahitian vessel Fa'afaite - arrived in Whangārei on Thursday as part of the Tuia 250 voyage.

The waka hourua travel through Te Matau ā Pohe. Photo / Michael Cunningham
The waka hourua travel through Te Matau ā Pohe. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Tuia 250 is the name given to the commemorations marking 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 Saturday morning hundreds of people headed down to Hihiaua Peninsula to watch as the three waka hourua and flotilla crews were welcomed.

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

Te Matau ā Pohe lifted about 8am to let the waka hourua through. Further up the Hātea Awa, kaihoe in three traditional waka chanted as they paddled to meet the vessels - the sound of pukaea, wooden trumpets, in the background.

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 the day as "awesome".

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

Arama Morunga, part of the roopu welcoming the visitors. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Arama Morunga, part of the roopu welcoming the visitors. Photo / Michael Cunningham

At 10am pukaea sounded once again to mark the start of the official haka pōwhiri. Crowds of people gathered to watch and take photos as wero were laid down by warriors and accepted by the manuhiri being welcomed.

Whangārei kaumatua Taipari Munro in a mihi to the crowd said the Tuia 250 kaupapa had been "very interesting" amongst the people of New Zealand.

"It's interesting that we acknowledge Captain James Cook and his discovery of New Zealand. But it's also interesting that the Portuguese people are now claiming they even got here before Abel Tasman.

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"However, to the iwi Pākehā we leave you to debate, that debate. Because there is one thing that we are very clear, tatou te iwi Māori, that it was our tūpuna Kupe who first saw this land.

"But today, we come together to share our heritage and to share our cultures," he said.

A Tuia 250 spokesman said about 2500 people turned up to the open day at Port Nikau wharf yesterday .
"The weather is absolutely gorgeous and the level of interest and engagement in the vessel is amazing. The crews are on board explaining how the vessel work and just people's appreciation of the uniqueness of the vessel is cool to see," he said.

The flotilla will now head to the Bay of Islands and is due to arrive on November 7.