Increased Budget for First Encounters

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A further $5 million has been committed by Government over the next two years for the First Encounters 250 commemoration which will include a focus on Captain Cook’s landing at Mercury Bay on the Coromandel, it was announced this week.

The Ministry of Culture and Heritage - through the Government’s Major Events Development Fund – has previously had a commitment of $3.5 million towards a commemorative voyage around New Zealand by a flotilla including a replica of the ship Endeavour.

This week’s announcement of $5 million came as part of the Government’s Budget released on Thursday.

Although it is not yet known how this additional funding may be applied, it was welcomed by the Mercury Bay 250 Trust, which is overseeing the co-ordination of events for the commemoration on the Coromandel.

“The Mercury 250 Trust are extremely pleased to receive this news and are endeavouring to put forward a quality programme for the Commemorations,” says Chair of the Trust, Paul Kelly.

Trustees include Joe Davis as the representative for Ngati Hei, Mr Kelly – who is also Chair of the Mercury Bay Community Board - Cook Society representative John Steele, historian Richard Gates and MBAS Principal John Wright.

The Ministry of Culture and Heritage has a team working on the commemoration and acknowledged the huge amount of energy and work the Trusts have put in so far.

Exciting initiatives are under way including a focus by Mr Wright and other educators from around the nation’s original landing sites on educational initiatives to capture and tell the stories of first encounters in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Mercury Bay is historically significant because it is one of the first areas of Maori landfall and subsequent settlement in Aotearoa and was also the location of one of the first amicable meetings between Maori and Europeans much later, in 1769.

Ngati Hei - descended from the ancestor Hei, the brother of Tamatekapua and captain of the Te Arawa waka - welcomed James Cook and his crew. This includes the Tahitian navigator Tupaia who was aboard the Endeavour’s first voyage around Aotearoa.  The visitors were hosted by Ngati Hei over 12 days and observed the transit of Mercury.

Ahuahu (Great Mercury) Island is also a significant site of early Maori settlement.

The additional funding allocation will be discussed at a meeting in July of the National Coordinating Committee for First Encounters 250. This Committee is overseeing the development and delivery of a programme of events at a national level, at the Endeavour’s original landing sites at Mercury Bay, Bay of Islands, Gisborne and Marlborough. 

Chair of this committee, Former Prime Minister Dame Jenny Shipley, recently toured original landing sites for Cook’s ship in the Mercury Bay as part of a positive meeting with members of the MB250 Trust. 

Mayor Sandra Goudie said the visit by Dame Shipley was of great assistance to those planning events for 2019, since it gave ideas and direction to members of the Trust and showcased Mercury Bay.

“The involvement of Dame Jenny Shipley has been inspirational to ourselves and to the Mercury 250 Trust.  It enables more drive and encouragement for us to deliver quality events to commemorate this significant occasion. 

“It is a special moment in history that we will not be able to see again, allowing us the opportunity

to provide legacy projects to commemorate. This is fantastic.”

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