250 years after James Cook landed on Aotearoa New Zealand, the replica ship HMB Endeavour, joined by a flotilla of waka hourua, va'a tipaerua and tall ships docked in Gisborne yesterday.

The vessels rounded Tuamotu Island at 6.15am and sailed toward Te Kuri a Paoa (Young Nick's Head) under the first golden rays of sun: thousands of people lined the city beachfront by 8am to watch the historic event.

This year marks 250 years since the first onshore meetings between Māori and Europeans. Photo / Getty Images
This year marks 250 years since the first onshore meetings between Māori and Europeans. Photo / Getty Images

Protest Action Turanganui-a-Kiwa were out in force to highlight the impacts of colonisation on Māori, the Endeavour seen as a symbol of European invasion.

Dame Patsy Reddy and Tuia 250 co-chairman Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr spoke at a civic welcome ceremony highlighting the voyaging heritage of Pacific people that led to the settlement of our nation.

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Protesters await the arrival of the HMB Endeavour replica in Gisborne. Photo / Getty Images
Protesters await the arrival of the HMB Endeavour replica in Gisborne. Photo / Getty Images

"Tuia 250 is a national commemoration and an opportunity for honest conversations about the past, the present and how we navigate our shared future," said Māori Crown Relations Minister Kelvin Davies.

"The Tuia 250 Voyage is the central event in the Tuia 250 programme and it's an honour to be part of the opening events welcoming the flotilla to our shores on this historic occasion," he said.

The HMB Endeavour replica leads the Spirit of New Zealand into Gisborne Harbour. Photo / Getty Images
The HMB Endeavour replica leads the Spirit of New Zealand into Gisborne Harbour. Photo / Getty Images

The flotilla is on the Tuia 250 voyage around the country between now and December on a journey of national significance.

Kelvin Davis visits the HMB Endeavour replica. Photo / Getty Images
Kelvin Davis visits the HMB Endeavour replica. Photo / Getty Images

The voyage can be followed at https://mch.govt.nz/tuia250