As tall ships and waka hourua made their journey into the Whangārei harbour, a group of children holding the United Tribes and Tino Rangatiratanga flags performed a stirring haka.
Further along the Onerahi foreshore, school students gathered, singing and performing haka as the flotilla passed them.
The vessels are here as part of Tuia 250, which commemorates 250 years since the first onshore meeting between Māori and Pākehā following the arrival of Captain James Cook, and also celebrates the voyaging heritage of Pacific people that led to the settlement of Aotearoa many generations before.
The commemoration does not have the support of everyone, but tohunga whakairo Te Warihi Hetaraka said it was a huge opportunity to tell the Māori history of arrival in New Zealand.
"The language that's travelling with the flotilla is dual heritage - shared future. This is a huge opportunity for discussions to be had around dual heritage and what that shared future would look like. So a big part of that is getting to understand the history of the Māori people."
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Hetaraka said there were people on two of the vessels sharing the history of Whangārei to the Bay of Islands, including stories of Mt Manaia and "many other ancestors" like Māui Tikitiki a Taranga, which is the original name of the Hen and Chicken Islands.
"For me personally it is beginning to share the stories of my tūpuna Koukou who, when Cook landed at Motuarohia in the Bay of Islands through misunderstanding shot my tūpuna in the thigh. So the opportunity to share that kōreo and what happened after that I think is a story I'm very keen to reveal to the general public."
The Tuia 250 flotilla includes 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.
Despite cold and windy weather people gathered at the Onerahi Wharf and along the foreshore to watch the flotilla pass. Janet Hetaraka said people were full of astonishment.
"They were just awesome. People cried. They saw the vessels come through and people cried," she said.
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.
Todayregional waka will receive and escort the waka hourua on the Hātea into Hihiaua about 8am, followed by a mass haka pōwhiri at Hihiaua Peninsula at 10am.
There will then be entertainment at Hihiaua Peninsula from 11.30am, and a range of other events at different locations throughout the weekend, including an open day at Port Nikau from 10am to 3pm.
The flotilla will then head to the Bay of Islands and is due to arrive November 7.