Te Whanganui o Hei | Mercury Bay is one of four landing sites in Aotearoa/New Zealand where Māori and European first met during Cook’s 1769 voyage,
therefore a significant place for Tuia - Encounters 250 commemorations. When H.M Bark Endeavour sailed into Te Whanganui
o Hei waters, tangata whenua Ngāti Hei welcomed the newcomers ashore at Wharekaho Beach, and guaranteed their safe
passage to Wharetāewa Pā. There, Ngāti Hei honoured Lieutenant James Cook, Tupaia - a Polynesian linguist, navigator and
priest, and the scientists and crew on board the Endeavour with the Māori ritual of welcome and inclusion, the Pōwhiri.
Cook also observed the transit of Mercury and accurately established the longitude of Te Whanganui a Hei on the globe.
On Friday 18 October 2019, a hugely significant event and the key ceremony Te Pōwhiri will take place, below the famous
Wharetāewa Pa (fortified village). Te Pōwhiri is to acknowledge and commemorate the first encounter between Ngāti Hei
and Endeavour crew 250 years ago. Te Whanganui o Hei/Mercury Bay and Wharetāewa Pā in particular, was the location of
the first friendly encounters between Māori and Europeans. Apart from the current historical homestead and stock
paddocks, the site remains largely untouched since the actual event.
Registrations to attend the Pōwhiri have unfortunately all been filled, however, the general public are still welcome to
catch the free shuttle buses running from Buffalo Beach Reserve out to Wharekaho to view the flotilla and the
proceedings from outside the Marae grounds.
There will be a seating area set up at Simpson's Campground for those interested in taking a look at the Tuia 250
Flotilla. The Tuia 250 flotilla consisting of two waka hourua (double hulled canoes)- Haunui and Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti,
a va'a moana - Fa’faite i te Ao Mā’ohi, from Tahiti, the replica HMB Endeavour, R. Tucker Thompson heritage ship and the
youth ship, Spirit of New Zealand, will anchor and disembark at the northern end of Wharekaho Beach (outside Simpson's
Campground) from around 10am. This will be a family-friendly, alcohol-free zone for all members of the public to come
along to and view the proceedings FREE of charge. (**see below for details on transport to Wharekaho). You will also be
able to follow the hīkoi along the beach then observe the ceremony from the beachfront or land located at the end of
Joseph Road (Leah Rd Reserve).
A Ngāti Hei representative will provide narration explaining the proceedings of the Pōwhiri along with snippets of
historical information. At 11:00am the manuhiri (voyagers, community members, dignitaries, visitors to the area), will
gather at the north end and begin the 1.2km hīkoi, and will be guided, along the foreshore and towards the southern end
of Wharekaho Beach, in the footsteps of Cook, the scientists, Tupaia and crew, entering the site of the "Te Powhiri",
where manuhiri (visitors) will take part in the traditional Māori ceremony of welcome. Members of the general public are
welcome to join the hīkoi, however, access to the Ngāti Hei land and participation in the Pōwhiri is restricted to
guests who have registered prior to the event due to limited numbers.
If you are attending the pōwhiri or taking part in the hīkoi please wear appropriate footwear for the beach and the
land. Also please dress appropriately to the weather on the day. This event will be going ahead rain or shine and cover
will not always be available.
In accordance with the ruling of the Harbour Master, there will be an exclusion zone in place in Wharekaho Bay for all
other vessels and no beaching of the vessels except the waka will be allowed (Friday 18th October only).
**Free parking will be available at Buffalo Beach Reserve, Whitianga. There will be NO PARKING available anywhere in
Wharekaho and the side roads will be closed to the public on this day.
Free shuttle buses will be running all day from Buffalo Beach Reserve, Whitianga to Wharekaho.
9am to 12pm - Buffalo Beach Reserve to Simpson's Campground (Northern end of beach)
12pm to 6pm - Buffalo Beach Reserve to Joseph Road (approx halfway along Wharekaho Beach)