The British Government will today convey a formal expression of regret to Gisborne-based iwi for deaths involving Captain James Cook 250 years ago, in ceremonies shrouded in secrecy.
The expressions of regret will be made by British High Commissioner Laura Clarke in private marae meetings but will stop short of an apology.
Such is the sensitivity of today's events, there is no intention for Clarke to put her words in writing - or for her to repeat what she says inside the sanctum of the marae once she is out.
The intention is that the expression of regret becomes part of the history of the iwi concerned and that they determine how it is shared and with whom.
Clarke will hold two meetings in Gisborne: first with Ngāti Oneone about midday, and then with the three Tūranga iwi: Ngai Tāmanuhiri, Rongowhakaata, and Te Aitanga a Māhaki a few hours later.
Some of their tīpuna, or ancestors, were among the nine Māori killed or wounded in Cook's first landing in New Zealand in 1769, the grief for which has endured over the centuries.
The British High Commission has not issued any notice of today's events and has sworn the iwi involved to secrecy.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister for Māori Crown Relations Kelvin Davis are due to visit Turanganui-a-Kiwa or Poverty Bay at the weekend for events to mark Cook's arrival.
It is understood that there were initial discussions about getting the New Zealand Government to join with the British Government in expressing regret for the deaths.
But the New Zealand Government's position is that not only was there no New Zealand Government at the time, but that expressions of regret and apologies are made to iwi as part of the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process.
'Within 30 minutes they had opened fire'
The Ngāti Oneone leader Te Maro was shot dead by one of Cook's men on October 8 - the first day of landing - possibly while taking part in a ceremonial challenge, history texts have suggested.
The following day the Rongowhakata chief Te Rakau was killed and others wounded, and later that day several more Māori were killed. Cook headed north from there and more Māori were killed confrontations at Mercury Bay and the Cavalli Islands.
The Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust has uploaded a series of videos on social media to highlight the tragic events of that first day and to share the story with a new generation.
One video shares an insight into the bloodshed based on Cook's diary.
"Cook and his crew landed on the banks of the Tūranganui River at 4pm. Within 30 minutes, they had opened fire and Te Maro was dead.
"Our whanaunga [family] was the first casualty of the Collision.
"Before they returned to The Endeavour at 6pm, crew members Banks and Solander had time to steal our taonga.
"After only being here for two hours, Cook and his crew had trespassed, terrorised, killed and stolen from us."
The Tuia250 events marking 250 years since Cook's arrival have been dogged in controversy.
The iwi hosting the British Government today have refused to take part in a welcome for a replica of Cook's Endeavour which is due to visit Gisborne next week as part of a flotilla of tall ships and ocean voyaging waka.
They suggested that the ancestors of colonialists could conduct the welcome.
It is not known whether the ceremony will change that. But the Gisborne District Council will be hosting the welcome to the Endeavour and others.
The northern iwi of Ngāti Kahu opposed the Endeavour docking at Mangonui in the Far North.
The Ministry of Culture and Heritage, which sought applications from young New Zealanders to sail on the double-hulled canoe Fa'afaite as part of Tuia250, apologised in August for a digital security breach which exposed personal details of 302 applicants.