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Iwi to receive regret message for Māori killed by Cook crew

Iwi to receive message expressing regret for Māori killed in James Cook meeting

Gisborne iwi are set to receive a message this afternoon from the British High Commissioner for the Māori killed when James Cook arrived in 1769.

Captain James Cook painted at the age of 50 by Nathaniel Dance-Holland (1776) Photo: Public domain

Laura Clarke will deliver an expression of regret to Rongowhakaata and other local iwi on behalf of the British government.

Ms Clarke will deliver the message at Whakato Marae.

In a statement posted on its Facebook page the Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust says the ceremony is to acknowledge the hara or atrocities committed 250 years ago.

A number of Māori warriors including at least one chief were killed by Cook's men during their first meetings in early October.

Commemorations marking the arrival start this weekend in Gisborne and protests are expected.

The High Commissioner won't talk about today's ceremony until it's over and the trust did not respond to a request for comment.

But Gisborne's outgoing mayor and the new Race Relations Commissioner, Meng Foon, said an official apology from the British government was very significant and he hoped it would help heal the relationship.

"It's a significant day today," he told Morning Report.

"This is a face-to-face private meeting between the British High Commissioner, the Crown and the iwi that were affected.

"I hope that the apology or message will acknowledge the murder of nine Māori from Tūranganui-a-Kiwa, and I hope they both can move forward and tell our history - for the rest of New Zealanders, but more particularly here in Tūranganui-a-Kiwa."

Tina Ngata Photo: Supplied

Indigenous rights advocate Tina Ngata, who has been leading the opposition to Tuia 250, told Morning Report it would take action behind the words to make a difference.

"In and of it itself, for the broad experience of what's happened, I don't think words are enough. It needs to be accompanied with change, with some clear actions, and a pathway. And the pathway should always be determined and defined by those who have borne the brunt of the experience."

She said there should be a review on Tuia 250.

"It's upto iwi and hapū to discuss what those reconciliation pathways should look like. This has had an enduring impact upon all of Māoridom, so the most important thing is it's defined by the people, not defined by the government and that it's accompanied with clear action."

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