Large political contingents head to Ratana

04:00, Jan 31 2009

Government and Labour MPs will be out in force tomorrow as they make their annual pilgrimage to Ratana to woo Maori.

Political leaders descend on Ratana Pa near Wanganui in January every year as part of three days of celebrations marking the birth of movement founder Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana.

In a show of "commitment" Prime Minister John Key will take almost half his caucus with him.

About 20 Labour MPs will also make the trip. The party's contingent will include leader Phil Goff, his deputy Annette King and former Treaty Negotiations Minister Michael Cullen.

Labour, which has traditionally enjoyed the support of the Ratana movement, is usually well received, while speakers tend to be more guarded towards National.

However Mr Key could get a warmer response this year following National's confidence and supply deal with the Maori Party.

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Mr Key will be led on to the marae by Maori Party co-leader and Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples.

Mr Key this week said the strong contingent, which will feature several senior ministers, showed the Government's commitment to improving the well-being of Maori.

"We want to work hard to achieve a better future for Maori New Zealanders and I'll be talking about those issues and the commitments we're making on the marae."

The Labour contingent was expected to be greeted on to the marae late in the morning, while Mr Key's group would be welcomed in the early afternoon.

- NZPA