Politicians put their case to Ratana

The political year has got under way with a promise of friendships, political rhetoric, an admission of errors, and the revelation of an MP's first kiss.

Politicians made their annual pilgrimage to Ratana yesterday to honour the founder of the Ratana movement and to court the Maori vote.

The opposition parties were welcomed on first: Labour, the Greens and a contingent of Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis members. The cannabis group seemed to be the butt of several jokes in Te Reo from Ratana speaker Ruia Aperehama.

More serious was Mr Aperehama's assertion, met with applause, that he hoped Labour would win the next election.

"I'm not here to determine who Ratana should vote for, people here can decide for themselves," he said.

In return, Labour leader David Shearer said he hoped Mr Aperehama was a prophet who was "able to see into the future".

He'll have to make sure people vote for the right person though. As Labour was being led on to the marae by one of Ratana's marching bands a child said "there's John Key". His father corrected him, "no that's whatsisname, John Shearer", before correcting himself, "I mean David Shearer".

There was no mistaking who Winston Peters was as he spoke to the media outside Ratana's dairy. Three teens sitting on a concrete fence watched on, dangling their legs and eating pies while a woman stopped to take photos.

"This is better than TV," she said.

Mr Peters said he would walk on to the marae by himself, not with Labour or the Greens. Asked what he thought of the legalise cannabis party walking on with Labour he joked that this was why he was going it alone.

As the opposition MPs spoke on the marae, National Party MPs waited outside Ratana's church for their turn. There, embattled Education Minister Hekia Parata gave her first interviews of the year, and admitted to making several mistakes in 2012 - though she would not say what they were.

"It's not my role to critique what happened . . . I've got a couple of lessons that I'm taking forward and I'm facing 2013 excited."

Also facing 2013 "excited" was Prime Minister John Key who told people on Ratana marae that he had been told to sack Mrs Parata - but he would not.

He said that while Labour promised improvements for Maori, it was National that delivered.

He spoke of Government-funded improvements to houses in Ratana carried out in the past four years.

"They can turn up at Ratana and tell you they love you, but they didn't love you enough to fix your houses."

The conclusion of his heavily political speech was met with silence.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei who, as a woman, was given special rights to speak on the marae. She recalled visiting Ratana as a child.

"I had my first kiss behind the bandstand when I was 12," she said.

"Just a kiss."

Manawatu Standard