Editorial: Political theatre at Ratana

Politicians have made their annual trek to Ratana in what is widely viewed as the first date each year on the political calendar.

Prime Minister John Key got a frosty reception; his highly political speech was met with silence. Labour leader David Shearer, meanwhile, was greeted with a prediction from Ratana leader Ruia Aperehama that he would win the next election.

It was pure political theatre, with the parties led onto Ratana's marae by marching bands. There Mr Key gave an impassioned defence of his maligned education minister and Mr Shearer got through an entire speech without a gaffe.

Mr Shearer said he hoped that Mr Aperehama was a prophet, but what influence does Ratana hold on election outcomes?

Probably not a lot.

Mr Aperehama said he was not telling anyone who to vote for and that the people of Ratana should make up their own minds.

Ratana's leaders and the MPs do, once the powhiri is complete, meet inside the marae for discussions but with the next group of visitors waiting a few hundred metres away for their turn on the marae these talks are brief.

Arguably the state of the nation speeches made by Mr Key and Mr Shearer later in the week carried more weight with voters.

They certainly carried more meat in terms of their political content.

Mr Key announced new policy in his while Mr Shearer gave a broader view of Labour's plans.

If anyone gained out of Ratana it was the Greens, who could conceivably pick up a chunk of the Maori vote from the potentially-doomed Maori Party.

Ratana leaders allowed Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei to speak on the marae.

Few women have been afforded this honour, the most recent was then Prime Minister Helen Clark; Ratana resident and former Labour candidate Soraya Peke-Mason was stopped from speaking on the marae last year.

At Ratana Mr Key said actions spoke louder than words, and that Maori voters should remember this in 2014. No doubt they will, but the actions that influence voters the most will likely have taken place well away from Ratana.

The yarn bombers have struck again, this time adding a sea-themed ensemble to the Pacific Monarch sculpture outside of Te Manawa's art gallery.

It is the third time the group, known as Wooly Riot, has added knitted creations to a city sculpture.

Its work adds colour and interest to sculptures around the city while doing no damage to the artworks themselves.

We look forward to seeing what the group comes up with next.

Manawatu Standard