First of political leaders welcomed on to Rātana

By Heta Gardiner

The Kīngitanga and Prime Minister Bill English were welcomed on to Rātana Pā today for the Rātana celebrations. This is the first time Bill English has been welcomed on as the Prime Minster. The annual visit to Rātana is to commemorate the birth date of the founder of the Rātana religious and political movement, Tahupotiki Wiremu Rātana. It also marks the start of the political year.

Mana party leader Hone Harawira told Te Kāea, “This is a show of unity under Mana Māori Motuhake.”

Māori party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell says, “Going on with the Māori Party and Mana could be seen as an expression of solidarity with Māori political parties in line with the king's comments last year where he criticised Labour and New Zealand First.

This is the first time Bill English has been welcomed on as Prime Minister.

“There are 16 National members here today. That's more than New Zealand First! Almost as much as Labour,” says PM Bill English.

But he quickly turned to a more formal tone.

“We need to be better and will be at working with you. Ratana. Whānau.”

The Kīngitanga and the Rātana Church have traditionally been associated with Labour since 1935, helping the party to win all of the Māori seats until 1996.

It is clear that the political year has officially begun. Other political parties will arrive at Rātana Pā tomorrow morning including Labour the Green Party and New Zealand First.