Britain's High Commissioner to New Zealand has elaborated on the statement of regret made to Gisborne iwi over the first interaction between Māori and Captain Cook's crew, saying it was made to "build a really close relationship going forward".
High Commissioner Laura Clarke issued the statement of regret to iwi in Gisborne in early October, 250 years after the first interaction between Māori and the crew of Captain Cook’s ship, Endeavor, which saw nine mana whenua killed.
The expression of regret, signed off by British Foreign Office ministers and directly expressed to the descendants of the men, was an acknowledgment of something previously ignored in a region where Captain Cook's arrival has often been celebrated.
On TVNZ1's Q+A, Ms Clarke said "to go forward, you have to be able to look back at the past and acknowledge the pain of the past".
"Those nine deaths in those very first encounters between Cook and his crew and New Zealand Māori or Māori of Aotearoa, that’s not how any of us would have wanted those first encounters to have happened."
"Representatives of those iwi and Ngati Oneone hapu came to see me and said, ‘We would like to have this encounter, these tragic encounters acknowledged. We would like to have a process of reconciliation and a stronger relationship going forward.'"
When asked why it was an "expression of regret" rather than an apology, Ms Clarke said, "expression of regret was what we landed on, and that was something that we very much co-created"
"That was just what worked. Once I got this expression of regret signed off by my government in the UK, we then worked very closely with the iwi to co-design it and work out how we did it in a way that achieved our objectives."
"My government is very supportive of me having done this expression of regret, and I think when iwi were asked about it, when iwi representatives were asked about it, their view was, ‘Well, actually, what matters is the intent. What matters is the relationship going forward.'"