Winston Peters denies hypocrisy amid Jacinda Ardern's absence from Rātana

The political year has officially begun - and for Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, it's a return to form.

He's gone into attack mode, defending the Prime Minister's absence from Rātana celebrations near Whanganui.

Mr Peters is filling in for Jacinda Ardern at the celebrations which kickstart the political year. 

"The Prime Minister's purpose offshore is to represent every person here, in this movement and everybody in this country," Mr Peters said. 

Ms Ardern is busy in Switzerland at the World Economic Forum. She said it was a "real disappointment" to miss it. 

It's unusual for a Prime Minister not to attend Rātana, but not unheard of. Former Prime Minister John Key was the last leader to do it in 2015. He was also in Switzerland for the same reason as Ms Ardern. 

At that time, Mr Peters said Mr Key hadn't attended because "he likes swanning around rubbing shoulders with rich and famous."

When confronted with that comment, Mr Peters said: "I'm not going to have a controversy constructed by colonialist mentality that the people of Rātana are going to be insulted by her not being here - that's bull dust and I'm not wasting my time with it."

Ms Ardern said it's "absolutely not about choosing - of course I was at Rātana last year, I've been there many, many years".

Labour's other friends in Government, the Greens, called Mr Key's 2015 absence a snub proving he had no interest in his own country.

National leader Simon Bridges was welcomed to Rātana separately from the Government and Mr Peters - and that's probably for the best. 


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