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PM Warmly Received At Ratana

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Prime Minister John Key, right hongi with Andre Mason on the marae at Ratana Pa. Credit: NZPA
Prime Minister John Key, right hongi with Andre Mason on the marae at Ratana Pa. Credit: NZPA

By Paloma Migone of NZPA

Wellington, Jan 22 NZPA - The three-day Ratana celebrations began today with a warm reception for Prime Minister John Key and National MPs.

Mr Key, alongside more than 20 MPs, made the annual pilgrimage to Ratana Pa, near Wanganui, to commemorate the birth of the founder of the religious movement, Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana.

During the opening speeches, the National Party was thanked for its work in government over the last two years. A minister of the Ratana Church, Joe Everett, said unlike previous years, he had no "shopping lists" for Mr Key as he has been fulfilling the needs of Maori.

"It's a great day for us. Thank you to you and the National Party.

"In the short time that you have been in power you've done so much more than what others have done for the ... Maori people," Mr Everett said.

Mr Key opened with a light tone, joking about flower pots -- six were blue and four were red. "I like that," he said. "Don't go changing that when the other fellow turns up on Sunday," he said referring to Labour leader Phil Goff.

On a more serious note, Mr Key said his number one and almost exclusive focus this year was to improve educational standards in the country, "so that every child in New Zealand gets the opportunity to succeed in life".

He also wanted one of the National Government's legacies to be the improvement and development of housing in Ratana. Mr Key took the opportunity to address issues concerning Maori, such as the foreshore and seabed legislation, employment, family wellbeing and the delivery of social services.

Before his speech, it was noted Moari Party co-leader Pita Sharples wasn't present. Last year, co-leaders Mr Sharples and Tariana Turia were welcomed on the marae with Mr Key. This year, however, Maori and Labour parties will be attending Ratana on Sunday, with the Maori Party being welcomed at noon and Labour at 1.30pm.

Mr Key said the decision to attend on different days was made based on convenience.

"It suited my schedule a little bit better," he said. "I think it's important to recognise, though we have the confidence and agreements with the Maori Party as we do with United Future and ACT, at the end they are individual political parties.

"The relationship between the Maori Party and National is extremely strong."

Mrs Turia, who was at the event today, said the party chose Sunday because it was more suitable.

The Labour Party said yesterday it was invited to attend both days, but opted for Sunday only, wanting to focus more on its relationship with the people rather than the politics.

"Most of the people will be there on Sunday and only a few of the people will be there on Friday," Mr Goff said. "There is a big Northland delegation I've been talking to and they said we don't arrive there until Saturday, so Sunday is the day in which there will be the greatest attendance."

Mr Goff said his speech would address future challenges concerning Maori, such as how to overcome the problem of underachievement in education.

Labour was looking at strengthening its relationship with Ratana with ongoing visits, he said.

"It's an important historical relationship, but it's more important than that. It's an ongoing relevant relationship because both Ratana and Labour have a shared commitment to T W Ratana's vision for a fairer society."

The Green and ACT parties will not be attending.

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