Applications have opened for Tuia 250 Voyage trainee places, and other berths, as final preparations are made for the celebration of Captain James Cook's first sighting of New Zealand in 1769.

Some 680 New Zealanders would have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of the Tuia 250 Voyage, sailing aboard waka hourua (double-hulled canoes), va'a moana, heritage and youth ships, as part of a flotilla that would travel to 15 locations around the country from October to December, Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage chief executive Bernadette Cavanagh said.

She described the Tuia 250 Voyage trainee programme as an exciting chance not only to learn about ancient voyaging traditions, sailing and navigation, but also to be part of a commemoration that would celebrate New Zealand's voyaging heritage.

"Tuia 250 trainees will be given the chance to have an unforgettable voyaging experience, to learn about our history and take that back to their communities," she said.

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"I encourage all curious and adventurous New Zealanders to apply."

Places were available for 450 people, 220 of them to be allocated by region to ensure an equal opportunity open to all.

Berths had also been reserved for 230 students aged 14 to 18, who would be nominated by their schools.

Voyage legs would range from overnight to 15 days.

â– Applications close on June 16; go to www.tuia250.nz