The Ngati Hei legacy

Te Whanganui o Hei (Mercury Bay) has a special place in New Zealand history because this is where the fraught first encounters between the voyaging Europeans and indigenous Maori were peaceably resolved and a relationship of mutual respect developed.

Aside from Cook determining the bay as a suitable location to observe the Transit of Mercury, it was the interface with local iwi which was most significant in terms of our nation’s history.

It has also been a story which, when told in the past by mainly European historians, seemed to focus mostly on the exploits of Cook and his scientists. Obviously cultural and interpretive difference, with British sailors and indigenous Māori initially tending to talk past each other, did not help. Hence the opinions of Ngāti Hei - the main hapū (tribal grouping) in Mercury Bay - on what they consider took place during this first encounter, previously tended to be secondary to those of the Pākehā.

He rae ki te rae, he ihu ki te ihu,
Te hau ka rere, te ha ka tau

A meeting of peoples, a mixing of cultures,
a blending of heritage, a sharing of future