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Ships, waka, dignitaries and protestors arrive for Captain Cook commemorations

Ships and waka are sailing in, dignitaries have arrived, and so have protestors for the Tuia 250 festivities kicking off tomorrow.

Events will celebrate Aotearoa's European, Māori and Polynesian voyaging history, but they've also inspired debate over New Zealand's colonial past.

There were diplomatic nicities for the French Polynesian President Edouard Fritch in Gisborne today as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reinforced Pacific ties.

"You are family, you are whānau, and it's wonderful to have you here," Ms Ardern told President Fritch.

Both leaders are in town for Tuia 250, to mark a shared history of ocean voyaging.

Tahiti is sending a va'a (canoe) in recognition of special links with Māori.

And it was a Tahitian navigator on board Captain James Cook's Endeavour when it landed 250 years ago.

Tuia 250 co-chair Dame Jenny Shipley said Tuia means "united and bound together, not the same, but committed to working together".

But Tina Ngata, Kai Mau, is navigating a lesser known path. She's raising awareness of an alternative program to Tuia 250.

"It's about the fact that we need to actually pull these events apart, strip them down, have a look at their components," she said. 

Her event will take a critical look at the history of colonisation, and put James Cook on trial for crimes against indigenous people.

Academics arriving from around the world will be there, and a documentary is being made.

Ms Ngata said that 251 years ago "we were a free and independent, self-governing people on these lands. And what happened was the birth of colonisation which stripped that. And we have not had that since". 

Organisers of Tuia 250 are open to the debate.

"It's not a right or wrong argument here," Dame Jenny said. "It's a 'let's listen to the critics, they've got something to say, but let's also listen to people who want to move forward because they've also got something to say.' And that's what Tuia's about.

"It's a challenge to confront our past, from all perspectives."

The waka flotilla will be met by waka which will to sail out to the bay in Gisborne early tomorrow and will shepherd the three voyaging waka into the bay. 

Once those crews have disembarked they'll be met by a mass pōwhiri. 

Organisers are hoping for a good turnout from locals for the event and that it will celebrate Pacific ties.

Meanwhile, 1 NEWS understands the mayor of Bora Bora, who's part of the Tahitian delegation, has extended an invitation to Ms Ardern to visit his beautiful Pacific Island.

The arrival of the waka will be broadcast live on TVNZ1 from 10am to 1pm, hosted by John Campbell, Stacey Morrison and Matai Smith.

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The Tuia 250 festivities, which start tomorrow, celebrate New Zealand’s European, Māori and Polynesian voyaging history. Source: 1 NEWS