No British apology for 1769 Maori massacre

Laura Clarke, the British High Commissioner to New Zealand, is meeting Maori tribal leaders in the town of Gisborne in New Zealand today.

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Boris Johnson's government has refused to apologise to Maori tribal leaders today for the massacre that took place in New Zealand in 1769.

Laura Clarke, the British High Commissioner to New Zealand, is meeting 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.

She will express "regret" that British explorers killed many of the first indigenous Maori they came across in New Zealand in 1769 - but, according to the Press Association, she will not be issuing a full apology.

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.

This Author

Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist. Padraig Collins is a reporter with PA.

Image: A Royal Mail stamp issued to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook setting sail aboard the Endeavour. 

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