The UK Government will express “regret” on Wednesday that British explorers killed some of the first indigenous Maori they came across in New Zealand in 1769.
The British High Commissioner to New Zealand, Laura Clarke, is meeting Maori tribal leaders in the town of Gisborne in the country’s North Island, as they mark the anniversary of Captain James Cook and the crew of his ship Endeavour arriving 250 years ago.
Though Ms Clarke will express “regret” for the deaths on behalf of the British Government, she will not be issuing a full apology.
It is not how any of us would have wanted those first encounters to have transpired
A High Commission spokesman said: “The expression of regret responds to a request from the local iwi (tribe) for this history to be heard and acknowledged.
“The British High Commissioner will acknowledge the pain of those first encounters, acknowledge that the pain does not diminish over time, and extend her sympathy to the descendants of those killed,” he said.
“It is not how any of us would have wanted those first encounters to have transpired.”
Soon after arriving, fearing they were under attack, sailors shot and killed a leader, Te Maro, and later killed eight more Maori.
The High Commission’s statement said both Captain Cook and botanist Joseph Banks had written in their diaries that they regretted the deaths.
It added that the exact wording of Ms Clarke’s speech to Maori leaders would remain private.