Captain James Cook's arrival in New Zealand in 1769 was never an issue until planning for the 250th anniversary began, according to Hobson's Pledge spokeswoman Casey Costello.

"The platform was created and the protesters appeared," she said in response to Tina Ngata, who was in New York to address the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues about New Zealand's commemoration of the 250th anniversary of Cook's landing in Gisborne. Ngata told Radio New Zealand there was no cause for celebration.

Māori were still very mamae, [hurt] and were still labouring under historical and enduring rights violations as a result of the event being commemorated, she said.

"The suggestion that Māori are labouring under any type of pain or hardship as a result of Captain Cook's arrival has no foundation," Ms Costello said. "When was the first complaint about Cook's arrival? It was never an issue in our family. Has a complaint about him been taken to the Waitangi Tribunal in the last 30 years? Any protest in the 1960s? Did anyone raise the issue as the Treaty of Waitangi was signed? No.


"The protests suddenly appeared when plans for the 250th anniversary appeared. The platform was created and the protesters appeared."

Ms Costello claimed protesters were "not shy about telling porkies". She quoted Ms Ngata:

"When somebody lands and then shoots the first person that they see, and then the next day shoots another 15, and then wants to get a closer look at a waka so they shoot everybody in the waka so they can get a closer look at it and everybody in that waka was unarmed, they were just fisher people."

That had been the subject of "quite a debate" in Gisborne, prompting Hobson's Pledge to look at Cook's journal. On October 9, 1769, he attempted to land in two small boats. "Natives" surged from the woods brandishing weapons. Two volleys were fired over their heads, and a third volley aimed at them killed one.

The following morning Cook found a menacing crowd brandishing clubs and pikes and began a haka. About 30 warriors rejected gifts, and attempted to grab weapons from Cook's men. When one of them ran off with the astronomer's cutlass, Cook gave the order to fire, killing another and injuring three.

A few days later there was another skirmish when Māori in boats attempted to throw missiles and projectiles. Warned by shots over their heads, they were fired on and two or three were killed.

"In other words, Cook's journal is clear," she said. "Four or five Māori were killed, the only query being if one was killed or injured, and all deaths resulted from Māori aggression. The protesters should tell the truth.

"What evidence is there that Māori lived in peace, harmony, health and prosperity until Captain Cook sailed into the East Coast bay? What evidence is there that these groups would have been in better shape today (or even survived) if Captain Cook had never reached this country?


"Implying that the visit by Captain Cook 250 years ago is to blame for Māori having the worst outcomes in health, education and justice is ridiculous. For instance, life expectancy for Māori has improved vastly with colonisation, from around 30 years in 1840 to 75 years in 2013."

The publication of falsehoods could incite resentment, hatred and violence, she said. The millions of New Zealand citizens who were proud of their shared history of hard work and sacrifice should not be denied the opportunity to celebrate the anniversary of Captain Cook the explorer, who opened the way for the country all now enjoyed.