Until recently, preparations to mark James Cook's arrival in New Zealand 250 years ago had barely been noticed publicly.
Winston Peters raised questions about it in Parliament in 2017 while in Opposition.
What captured his attention was the involvement of perhaps his three least favourite National Party people: Maggie Barry had appointed Dame Jenny Shipley to chair the Tuia 250 co-ordinating committee and Paula Bennett had supported a higher than standard payment for Shipley because of her seniority.
Prime Minister Bill English batted away the protestations.
There was a Sam Neill television documentary series last year, Uncharted, about James Cook in the Pacific.
It then sank into obscurity until a digital security breach at the Ministry of Culture and Heritage this year and, some iwi said the replica of Cook's ship Endeavour was not welcome in their patch.
But then came the British expression of regret this week to Gisborne-based iwi which has fired up interest.
On the face of it, it was a simple enough request of the Gisborne-based iwi. They wanted an apology for the nine deaths at Cook's first encounter from the Royal Society in London which, along with the Admiralty, had sent Cook on a scientific expedition.
The Royal Society in New Zealand supported the request by the iwi – accustomed as it was to the addressing of grievances in New Zealand since the Waitangi Tribunal was set up in 1975.
UK Govt to atone for Captain Cook's NZ landing deaths
Should others express regret for early encounters with Māori?
Māori not blameless either during Captain Cook's landing: Winston Peters
But the scientists in London were not so obliging.
British High Commissioner Laura Clarke met the iwi last December and negotiated with the iwi over the months to arrive at a ceremony that took place on Wednesday to convey "an expression of regret" by the British Government.
The plan to reveal it only after it was over was thwarted by the Herald plastering it on its front page. So why the secrecy by both the British and New Zealand governments?
Who wouldn't regret the fateful events of Cook's first landing in New Zealand?
From the beginning there has been a sense of nervousness in successive governments about the anniversary and the potential to offend Māori for celebrating what is seen by some as the "first invader", and for that offence to offend Pakeha.
To reduce the potential for friction, it is officially a "commemoration" rather than a "celebration" and the focus was deliberately widened away from Cook to voyaging, including voyaging waka, and the first onshore encounters between Māori and European.
The sensitivity on the British side was perhaps in creating a precedent or expectation that it could set off further demands for expressions of regret around the globe for its imperial and colonial history.
While the occasion did get international coverage, it seems that claims Boris Johnson groped a journalist's thigh 20 years ago proved a distraction.
It was managed in such a way to keep it very locally focused on the four iwi involved with expectations managed and no interference or hijacking by outside iwi. The UK message was imparted by Clarke with empathy and she took her Kiwi husband and kids with her.
The New Zealand Government made the wise choice to leave the "expression of regret" entirely to the iwi and the British to sort out.
The last thing it needed was to be associated with an occasion which, in the shortest of shorthand, could be interpreted as an apology for Cook arriving at all.
It has not escaped criticism but with one major exception, it has been mild.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said Māori had not been blameless which was a fairly gentle way of saying he is not going to accept a one-dimensional view of history.
It was made a point without criticising those who had taken some solace from the British move.
It was an illustration of how Peters has mellowed over the years.
The most outrageous and outraged criticism came from Don Brash, who appears stuck in time, January 27, 2004 to be precise, the date of his Orewa speech.
Now the Hobson's Pledge spokesman, he demanded Laura Clarke be withdrawn over her "factually incorrect meddling in our 250-year national celebration".
He then questioned whether there would be an expression of regret to the Portuguese because one of Abel Tasman's crew had been killed and eaten in 1642, quite oblivious to the factually incorrect suggestion in his press statement that Tasman was not Dutch.
It pays to be careful when lecturing others about factual inaccuracies.
Brash said the British High Commissioner had helped "activists" score a major propaganda point and her error, he said, was to accept the "inflated" number of Māori deaths to nine when Cook's own diary had said four or five.
It was seemingly impossible, by Brash's logic, for anyone to have possibly died from wounds after Cook had sailed away because the diary forbade it.
Brash's suggestion that the iwi involved were overrun by Māori activists and protesters could be true, depending on your definition of activists.
One of the leading lights of Rongowhakaata is Amohaere Houkamau, a woman little known outside Maoridom, but who has until recently perhaps been the most influential Māori woman in the country.
For many years she was the power behind the previous Government's relationship with iwi leaders, working as she did for Bill English for nine years in the heart of the Beehive. She is the type of person who makes things happen.
Happen they did on Wednesday and very successfully, in that the iwi's pain which Brash blithely claimed had "no foundation" was acknowledged by the British Government.
The expressions of regret, the way they were received and the informed contribution to debate about Cook by historian Dame Anne Salmond has set a positive tone for the climax of commemorations over the next few days in Gisborne - which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will attend.
The commitment to mark the 250th was driven locally by Te Ha Trust, including Salmond as a trustee, which formed in 2013 and it is running a Tairawhiti Arts Festival concurrently. It convinced the Government it should be a national event as well although Ardern handed responsibility for it to Kelvin Davis.
It will be a rather different affair than how the 200th anniversary of Cook's landing was celebrated in 1970 with a visit from the Queen and parades idolising the conquering hero.
But much has changed in New Zealand in those 50 years, not least an acceptance to address the past.