One month to go: Tolaga Bay prepares to host international celebrations for the Transit of Venus in June 2012

Te Aitanga a Hauiti iwi and the East Coast community of Tolaga Bay are preparing to host manuhiri from around New Zealand and overseas to observe the Transit of Venus. It will be another 105 years before the astronomical phenomenon will be seen again.

The 2012 Transit of Venus Project is a partnership between Te Aitanga a Hauiti and the Tolaga Bay community, The MacDiarmid Institute, the Royal Society of New Zealand and Victoria University of Wellington. The Tolaga Bay Transit of Venus steering group lead Te Ara o Kōpū ki Ūawa 2012 – The Transit of Venus, a series of projects centred around Tolaga Bay-Uawa, as the national centre of observation of the Transit of Venus on Wednesday, 6 June 2012.

Steering group co-chair Victor Walker says Tolaga Bay’s role as New Zealand’s centre of observation is “a natural fit”. Tolaga Bay is an important player in New Zealand’s story – providing the setting for some of the earliest positive encounters between Māori and Pākehā, and the first collection of indigenous flora and fauna – Captain James Cook anchored the HMS Endeavour at Ōpoutama/Cook’s Cove to replenish water, firewood and fresh supplies. Scientists and artists on board the Endeavour collected flora and fauna, and recorded the local landscape. Captain Cook, with Tahitian/Rai’atean tohunga Tupaea acting as interpreter, scientists and crew were able to gain their first real understanding of Māori.

“Observing the Transit of Venus in 1769 was the reason Captain Cook ventured into the Pacific,” says Victor. “The cultural traditions of Te Aitanga a Hauiti and fine gardens impressed Cook and his crew. Over 240 years later, celebrating this dual heritage and learning what this may mean for our shared future will be the theme at Tolaga Bay.”

Victor says the steering group recognised the Transit of Venus provided “opportunities for advancement of our communities”, and developed science and technology, education, employment, and environmental initiatives. This is complemented by a programme of events in the lead up to the official viewing day of 6 June 2012.

“Our school and community were involved with the Royal Society of New Zealand at the first transit of this pair in 2004,” Tolaga Bay Area School Principal Nori Parata says. “Since then we have had an on-going commitment to celebrate the 2012 transit here. Our curriculum for these past two years is based around the Transit of Venus, and all the opportunities this can bring to education, science and the arts.”

A major exhibition of Te Aitanga a Hauiti taonga, set alongside items connected with Cook’s 1769 visit, and celebrating on-going relationships, will open at Gisborne’s Tairāwhiti Museum on Friday 1 June.

Activities at Tolaga Bay include:

  • the re-dedication of the restored, historic and iconic Tolaga Bay wharf
  • races and demos of waka hourua on the sea and waka ama on the river
  • the Royal New Zealand Navy band and HMNZS Rotoiti weighs anchor
  • a new mural by school students supported by local artists will be unveiled
  • a time capsule will be dedicated at Tolaga Bay Area School/Kuranui
  • a dramatic performance, written, produced,and performed by local talent 
  • safe viewing of the transit safely at temporary observatories
  • plantings as part of the ecological restoration of the Uawa River.

“Among the exciting projects to emerge is a sustainability plan for the Uawa River catchment,” says steering group co-chair, Rev’d Stephen Donald. “Scientists from the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution are working with us to extend this beyond environmental aspects to include economic, social and cultural sustainability. Our unique model of acknowledging our dual heritage and building on it to develop a shared future is something we want to focus on for the long term benefit of our community, and share with others if they see value in it for their own communities.”

A forum entitled ‘Lifting our horizons’ initiated by the late Sir Paul Callaghan is being held at Gisborne on 7 and 8 June, hosted by the MacDiarmid Institute, the Royal Society of New Zealand and Victoria University of Wellington. Forum attendees will observe the transit at Tolaga Bay.

“This is our last chance in this life-time to witness the Transit of Venus,” says Victor. “As we prepare to manaaki the science and academic community, politicians, dignitaries, other iwi, and schools to Tolaga Bay-Uawa, we will contribute to their dialogue and share with them our unique perspective for community development. We intend that Te Aitanga a Hauiti and the wider community will create a legacy that will still be felt by our mokopuna in 2117, and reaches back to our tipuna honouring the spirit of manaaki they extended to those first visitors to Aotearoa, but also captures their entrepreneurial nature.”

For more information contact: Kelly Blackman, Project Co-ordinator, Te Ara o Kōpū ki Ūawa / Transit of Venus 2012, Email:, Phone:068626144, Mobile: 021713011.

Background information:

The Transit of Venus is a rare astronomical event, occurring in pairs eight years apart at intervals of between 105 and 120 years. The transit of 6th June is the second of this pair; another transit will not occur until 2117.

About Te Ara o Kōpū ki Ūawa 2012 – the Transit of Venus at Tolaga Bay 2012

The Tolaga Bay Transit of Venus steering committee represents Te Aitanga a Hauiti and the people of Tolaga Bay-Uawa.

Follow us on Facebook: Transit of Venus 2012 Team



For more information you can also contact:

Glenda Lewis, Transit of Venus Forum Organising Group, The Royal Society of New Zealand, Email:, Phone: 04 386 3525, Mobile: 027 210 0997