Britain expresses regret for Māori killed during Captain Cook's arrival

The British High Commissioner made history on Wednesday when she gave a formal expression of regret for the killing of Māori when Captain Cook first came ashore.

But many say it should have been a full apology for the deaths of nine Māori killed in Gisborne during the first encounters with Cook.

Today's events were shrouded in secrecy and were not meant to be made public.

Almost 250 years after Captain Cook first made land here in New Zealand it fell to British High Commissioner Laura Clarke to take responsibility for his actions.

Clarke was welcomed onto Te Poho o Rawiri Marae where she expressed Britain's regret for the pain caused by the first encounters and acknowledgement that the pain hasn't diminished over time while extending sympathy to the descendants.

"I acknowledge the pain of those first encounters," she said. "I acknowledge the deaths of nine of your ancestors, including Te Maro who were killed by the crew of the Endeavour."

That acknowledgement is believed to be the first of its kind in New Zealand history.

On October 8 1769, Captain Cook sailed into Poverty Bay onboard the Endeavour. Within half an hour of his first excursion to shore, his men had killed Te Maro, who was earmarked to become a chief. Captain Cook later expressed his own regret over those first encounters in his diary. 

The meetings were at the request of Turanganui-a-kiwa iwi, who wanted that history acknowledged. The British High Commission worked with them for months to prepare for today, which was designed as a first step in helping heal wounds which have been passed down through generations.

But Race Relations Commissioner and former Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon says it doesn't go far enough.

"A full apology would be the ultimate thing to do," he says.


Contact Newshub with your story tips: