TPP controversy dominates Ratana Pa

Prime Minister John Key (Simon Wong)
Prime Minister John Key (Simon Wong)

The Prime Minister is playing coy when it comes to his political future. He's confirmed he'll run for the top job in the next election, but he won't say whether he intends to stay in the seat if elected.

That wasn't the only question he faced at Ratana today; Maori want answers about their rights under the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

All sides of the political spectrum descended on Ratana Pa today – the annual kick-start to the political year – and John Key took the opportunity to kick his 2017 campaign into gear, confirming he's all in for the next election.

"My position hasn't changed, which is that I enjoy being Prime Minister," he said.

But he left a question mark over whether he'd sit a full term if he was elected again.

"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it, but my focus now is a successful result in 2017."

Mr Key also flashed a new lapel addition, supporting his personal hot topic – the flag. 

But under the burning hot sun, King Tuheitia's spokesman, Rahui Papa, introduced the real hot topic - the TPPA.

"The closed-door negotiations doesn't work for Maori," he said.

"We ask that there is more information and more discussions before New Zealand commits to signing the TPP agreement."

Mr Papa's speech drew large cheers from the crowd.

Once the politicians got their right of reply, the TPP was back on the agenda.

Mr Key promised Maori the TPP deal will be good for the Maori economy. He said Maori have nothing to fear from the deal when it comes to rights under the Treaty of Waitangi.

Mass TPPA protests didn't eventuate. A small group at the gate of Ratana Pa was all that turned up after plans were reportedly all shut down by church elders, who want Ratana to remain a peaceful gathering.

But the message was still delivered to "take the pulse of the people".

The lack of placards will be a welcome relief for Mr Key. Over the next few weeks he's set to see his fair share, with the signing of the document in Auckland on February 4, and again at Waitangi when he arrives just a day later.

The political year is now in full swing. The first Cabinet will sit on Tuesday.

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