Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called on Saturday (October 5) for New Zealand to have a more open conversation about its history, as commemorations began ahead of the anniversary of the landing of British explorer James Cook in the territory 250 years ago.

Britain delivered a "statement of regret" to indigenous Māori this week for the killing of nine of their number immediately after Cook's landing, although it did not offer a formal apology.

Ardern was joined by dignitaries in Gisborne, in the country's east, where a flotilla comprising traditional Pacific double hulled 'waka' vessels received a traditional Maori welcoming ceremony.

She said New Zealand should continue to learn and tell the full story of the country's past.

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