Bill English makes first visit to Ratana as PM

Prime Minister Bill English gave an impressive speech in Te Reo Māori at his inaugural address in the role at Rātana this afternoon. 

In the past, Prime Ministers have given a quick rehearsed spiel in Te Reo at the beginning of their speeches, but Mr English spoke off the cuff in Reo for a couple of minutes. 

He says he's been practising the language over summer. 

"I think it's important when you're going into a formal Māori situation that you show some respect for the language. I don't know a whole lot; I can understand roughly about half of what's said, and I can use some of it. 

"I haven't learnt the language, and I wish I had more time to do that, but I pick up bits and pieces and I have some Māori speakers in my office," he says. 

He says he'd like to learn more, particularly because ministers have "a lot of interaction" with Māori."

The annual visit to Rātana Pā, near Whanganui, means the political year has officially begun.

Usually, all parties are welcomed on the same day, but this year is different.

The National Party arrived on Monday - a day early - because of a clash with an important Cabinet meeting in Wellington tomorrow. Labour, the Green Party and New Zealand First will all arrive on Tuesday.

In a sign of a healing divide and a foreshadowing of this year's election, the Mana Movement and Māori Party have arrived at Ratana together.

Mana leader Hone Harawira joins the Maori Party contingent at Ratana (Dan Pannett / Newshub.)
Mana leader Hone Harawira joins the Māori Party contingent at Ratana (Dan Pannett / Newshub.)

It's the first Ratana celebration as Prime Minister for Bill English, who has been welcomed onto the marae with his entourage of MPs, officials and security staff.

Ratana Church secretary Piri Rurawhe says while the church doesn't support National, it's always keen to host the party.

Bill English meets with Ratana Church secretary Piri Rurawhe (Llloyd Burr / Newshub.)
Bill English meets with Ratana Church secretary Piri Rurawhe (Llloyd Burr / Newshub.)

"The church is politically aligned, but we are politically fair as well. We do have an alliance with the Labour Party, but what we've done over the past six months is try and meet with all political parties to put the Ratana agenda."

Mr English says he prefers Ratana celebrations to those at Waitangi.

No protests are expected.

Newshub.

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