New Zealanders in Tūranganui-a-Kiwa (Poverty Bay) will get to witness Māori, Pākehā and Pacific voyaging traditions come together as the Tuia 250 Voyage flotilla assembles for the first time today.
The flotilla will include a replica of Captain Cook's ship, the Endeavour, as the event commemorates his landing 250 years ago.
Organisers are hoping the event will unify the two cultures of New Zealand, although some say it has sparked controversy.
Local iwi have refused to give a welcoming pōwhiri for the replica but will be present to honour their tipuna who were killed during their first encounters with the European explorer.
"Tuia 250 is a national commemoration and an opportunity for honest conversations about the past, the present and how we navigate our shared future," Māori Crown Relations Minister Kelvin Davis says.
"That also means celebrating our voyaging histories and sharing those stories that haven't been told to wider New Zealand before - and this is what we've seen over the last few days here in Gisborne.
"The first task of the six vessels in the flotilla will be to honour the tangata whenua of the region, the first people in its history of migration and settlement.
"When the vessels are in Tūranganui-a-Kiwa, bonfires will be lit at each site to show their significance to Māori settlement through ahi kaa, the burning fires of occupation."
The three double-hulled sailing canoes of the flotilla which landed on Saturday 5 October will sail out to meet the arriving ships, the HMB Endeavour replica from Australia, the Spirit of New Zealand and the R. Tucker Thompson.