The Bay of Islands will be one of four main sites around the country in large-scale commemorations marking 250 years since Captain Cook's first landfall in New Zealand.

If all goes to plan the celebrations will include a voyage around the country by a flotilla of vessels including a replica of Cook's Endeavour, waka hourua (double-hulled ocean-going canoes) and Navy ships.

Northland-only events will include a two-week waka-building festival with participants from around the Pacific.

The commemorations are due to take place in late 2019 with Northland's role discussed at a hui at Waitangi on Monday.


While some events will be organised nationally by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, commemorations at the four key sites - the Bay of Islands, Gisborne, Mercury Bay and Golden Bay - will be organised by volunteer committees, such as Northland's Te Au Marie Sestercentennial Trust.

Committee member and Far North deputy mayor Tania McInnes said local events would include a challenge for the visiting fleet and a re-enactment of the first encounter between Maori and Europeans in the Bay of Islands, when the Endeavour was met off Motuarohia Island by a fleet of 30 waka each with up to 100 men on board.

A festival in Opua would then welcome the visitors.

Planning was also under way for a two-week tarai waka (waka-building festival) which could become a triennial event.

Northland events would focus on the meeting of three great voyaging traditions - Maori, European and Tahitian. Tupaia, a Tahitian navigator, helped Cook navigate across the Pacific.

The organisers also hope to leave long-lasting educational, ecological, economic and social benefits.

Committee member David Mules said that could include conservation projects and improved tourist infrastructure at the key Northland sites of Motuarohia and Maiki Hill in Russell, plus the erection of pou and stone sculptures.

Jane Hindle, who co-chairs the committee with James Eruera, said the commemorations would acknowledge colonisation and aimed to help heal historical divisions, but they also had to be fun.

The participation of the replica Endeavour, which is based at the Australian Maritime Museum, is still being negotiated.

In Northland the fleet is expected to visit Bream Bay, Bay of Islands, Cavalli Islands and Doubtless Bay.

The main speaker at the hui was Pacific Economic Ambassador and former MP Shane Jones. Also present were celestial navigation expert Hekenukumai Busby and Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis.

The festivities will start in October 2019 in Gisborne and form part of national commemorations which began in 2014, the 200th anniversary of New Zealand's first European settlement, and will end in 2020.

As part of the commemorations, musician Tim Finn is writing an opera based on the life of Tupaia.