Labour and Rātana Church celebrate 80 years
Leaders of the Rātana movement met with the Labour Party at Parliament today, celebrating 80 years since the historic meeting which cemented their political alliance.
On April 22, 1936 the founder and prophet of the Rātana Church, Tahupotiki Wiremu Rātana, met with then Labour leader and Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage.
The meeting was a result of long-fought efforts by Rātana to have the Treaty of Waitangi recognised for the future prosperity of Māori.
History shows Tahupotiki Wiremu Rātana invited many political leaders to discuss his concerns regarding Māori, with Mr Savage taking up the invitation which led to a long-standing relationship.
Labour leader Andrew Little said it was important to remember the history of how the relationship was formed, in order to recognise the significance of it into the future.
"It's important to remember the background because that's a lesson for Labour in not taking the relationship for granted. Wiremu Rātana fought hard, found one that would listen and forged that relationship and committed Rātana support to Labour," he said.
At the meeting in 1936, T W Rātana presented Mr Savage with five symbolic gifts:
History records that the gifts had such a profound effect on Mr Savage they were buried with him when he later died in 1940.
Since the alliance, Labour has enjoyed a stronghold over Parliament's Māori electorate seats.
Mr Little said Labour is keen to "rebuild" the relationship with Rātana and has promised to meet with Church leaders in October.
"Together between us we are coming up with ideas and suggestions and policies that will make a meaningful difference to all Māori.
"I don't think that Wiremu Rātana or Michael Joseph Savage would have wanted anything other and
80 years on, we can still fulfil both their spirit and ambition," Mr Little said.
The idea was warmly welcomed by the chairman of the Rātana Church executive, Andre Meihana.
"Yes, it is possible for us to move forward and I hope and pray that the future is great for you and I."
To mark today's anniversary, the Labour Party gifted a pōhutukawa tree to the tumuaki (head) of the Rātana Church.
It links closely with the Geranium tree Wiremu Rātana planted where the Beehive now stands at Parliament.
Wiremu Ratana believed the tree was a reflection of how his efforts in Wellington were being received. If the tree was flourishing, all was well, but if the tree was in bad shape, so too were the results of his efforts with members of Parliament.