Politicos turn out to Turangawaewae for celebrations
Labour Party members were nowhere to be seen in the visiting gaggle of politicians and their supporters to Turangawaewae Marae at the Maori King Tuheitia's annual celebration.
But the party's absence was no snub, said deputy leader Kelvin Davis.
MPs were just too busy heading into Sunday afternoon's campaign launch in Auckland to attend, he said.
"We had this [campaign] - to be at the campaign launch takes precedence," Davis said.
He doubted the no-show would do anything to derail Nanaia Mahuta's chances of winning back the Hauraki-Waikato electorate.
"Nanaia is assured of winning that seat, but we'll be there tomorrow [Monday] - Nanaia, Peeni [Henare - the Tamaki Makaurau MP] and I - and like I say, it conflicts with the campaign launch and this takes priority."
Prime Minister Bill English was in Hawke's Bay making a major roading announcement - 10 new roads of national significance including a four lane highway between Napier and Hastings at a cost of $10.5 billion.
But Minister for Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson stood in for him, supported by a handful of National MPs, including Chester Borrows, Louise Upston, Tim Macindoe and David Bennett.
Finlayson sat next to Tuheitia, Tuheitia's wife Atawhai, and Ngati Tuwharetoa chief Sir Tumu te Heuheu on the porch of the meeting house.
The politicians' powhiri looked like a who's who of Maori Party politics.
Maori Party president Tukoroirangi Morgan was the first to speak on behalf of Tuheitia, saying politicians are throwing election promises around like lollies.
Maori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell was in the visiting group speaking on behalf of the party. Mana Party leader Hone Harawira is in an agreement with the Maori Party for the election, while new candidate in the Hauraki-Waikato seat Rahui Papa made closing comments on behalf of the Kingitanga.
Flavell, during his whaikorero, made subtle reference to politicians who were suspiciously absent, he said.
"We have all come," Flavell said in te reo Maori. "Asian, Pacific Islands, Maori, South Islanders, North Islanders, political parties - but not all of them."
New Zealand First, the ACT Party and Peter Dunne's United Future were also absent from the day.
Maori Party candidate Rahui Papa, one of Tuheitia's counsel vying for the Hauraki-Waikato electorate, praised the National Party MPs' attendance.
"Every year, the National Party has been represented at the koroneihana of Kingi Tuheitia over the entire 11 years and we respect that," Papa said.
The welcome was followed by a multidenominational church service and kapa haka performances.
On Monday, Tuheitia is expected to give his annual address. His 2016 speech was a political bombshell - pledging his allegiance to the Maori Party.