A monument to Māori exploration planned for site of Cook's landing

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

A new monument is being built at the Puhi Kai Iti site in Gisborne, also known as 'Cooks landing site', to acknowledge 1,000 years of Māori navigation to Aotearoa. The development will coincide with the Tuia - Encounters 250 by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, which will commemorate 250 years since the arrival of Captain Cook.

Behind the design is Ngāti Oneone artist Nick Tupara. 

“The Cook memorial stands there.  That marks the beginnings of a more recent 250 years but we have a depth that's been missing in our history, in our storytelling, sharing with our young ones, our mokopuna and this site development is an attempt to bring all of that back,” says Tupara.

Enhancements to the site acknowledge the traditional school of esoteric lore and learning called Puhi Kai Iti, built on the site where Māori navigator Maia landed his waka Te Ikaroa-a-Rauru many centuries ago.

“Maia established a Whare Wānanga here from that waka, to connect this place and to connect Aotearoa back to Hawaiki, back into the Pacific...the wānanga was built around those journeys and was passed on over a thousand years of our traditional navigation,” says Tupara.

The development is a partnership between Ngāti Oneone, the Department of Conservation and Gisborne District Council and has been timed to coincide the Tuia - Encounters 250 commemorations.

“So that we can unveil our ancestral stories and our ancestors before the Cook commemoration, so that those that want to visit for those commemorations, our ancestors are here ready to welcome them on.”

Tupara says part of the reason for this redevelopment is to stimulate people to critically consider multiple layers of history.

“To share and discuss, to debate, to cry if you like, to mourn those that were killed by Cook here, but also to celebrate as a community us embracing 1,000 years of our existence here in Te Tairāwhiti.”

The build has a timeline for completion set for August.