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Jacinda Ardern calls on New Zealanders to 'talk about our history much more openly' during Tuia 250

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called for New Zealanders to "talk about our history much more openly" as the nation commemorates 250 years since the first encounters between Māori and Pākehā.

Ms Ardern was joined by dignitaries in Gisborne today for Tuia 250, a series of events celebrating Aotearoa's European, Māori and Polynesian voyaging history, which saw ships and waka arrive from New Zealand and around the Pacific for the festivities.

"We've had commemorations before, we've had acknowledgements of the encounter between Cook before, but what we haven't had is the telling of the navigational story of Māori and Polynesian ancestors, and that's what's different about this programme," Ms Ardern said during TVNZ1's live coverage of the event. 

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

"We were only really telling, I believe, 50 per cent of the story, and not always telling it well."

Ms Ardern today acknowledged the ancestors of the nine Māori men who were murdered by the crew of the Endeavour, whose ancestors were in attendance at today's event.

"I'd ask anyone to imagine what it would be like to hear a story be retold knowing that, actually, you lost an ancestor directly because of those encounters and not feeling like that'd be adequately told," she said.

"Can you imagine how that would make you feel? And so, I can absolutely understand the emotion and the strength of feeling, because I think that is what has happened in our history.

"This is not just, you know, a series of weeks of conversation – we have to now make sure that we embed this, that we have this conversation, that we talk about our history much more openly."

Ms Ardern's comments come after the British High Commissioner to New Zealand on Wednesday issued a statement of regret over the actions of Captain Cook and the crew on the Endeavour. 

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The unprecedented move came as the British high commissioner visited iwi in Gisborne today. Source: 1 NEWS

The Prime Minister said New Zealand should continue to learn and tell the full story of the country's colonial past, even after the commemorations have ended.

"We are a young country and I think, actually, sometimes, we lose sight of that because there is so much wisdom and knowledge in the Māori culture that we, sometimes, I think, forget actually, our encounters, they weren’t so long ago," she said.

"That means that there are still things that we need to heal from and learn from, but this is all part of it and I feel like we are doing things differently."