Bill English has attended the annual gathering at Ratana, speaking in Maori “extensively”. He said he had “picked up bits and pieces” and thought it was important to show respect for the language in a formal Maori situation.
The Prime Minister was welcomed to Ratana Pa on Monday for the first time since being appointed as leader and described the reception as the “best of tikanga” in terms of the “hospitality, respectfulness and warmth” he received.
Ratana Church secretary Piri Rurawhe was first to speak and stressed it was their choice to extend an invite to English to attend a day earlier than other political leaders because all are welcome at Ratana Pa, “irrespective of the colour of their skin”.
Rurawhe said having the new Prime Minister attend was about giving the people an opportunity to hear the Government’s plans for the year ahead.
English began his reply to Rurawhe and the Ratana people speaking extensively in Maori without any notes – demonstrating his good grasp of the language.
Speaking to media after, he said he wouldn’t say he was “proficient” but has instead “picked up bits and pieces” in his years in Parliament.
“I just think it’s important when you’re going into a formal Maori situation to show some respect for the language. I don’t know a whole lot, I can understand roughly half of what’s said and I can use some of it,” he said.
English was warmly greeted by Ratana elders when he arrived shortly before midday on Monday and was taken onto the Pa by the local band.
“I just think, as you’ve seen here today, it’s the best of tikanga. It’s good for New Zealand and good for New Zealanders to see it.
“It’s such a positive, warm and hospitable way of doing business.”
English said the decision not to go to Waitangi has been made but that it wasn’t the “only place” that conversations about Maori issues took place.
Te Tii should take note.
Ngāpuhi kaumātua Kingi Taurua has responded to the Prime Minister’s comments saying if he prefers a tikanga of peace and quiet, Ratana is the place for him.
Mr Taurua is a kaumātua of Te Tii Marae which has hosted the political pōwhiri for decades.
“Each tribe, each marae, has their own method of tikanga. If Ratana has a tikanga that is suitable for the government then well and good but at Waitangi we have a tikanga of challenging government policies in regards to the Treaty of Waitangi,” said Mr Taurua.
English said that the Government had reached it’s limit on dealing with social problems, and he didn’t think that more money and more public servants was going to achieve any more. He indicated more partnerships with ‘the people who know the people’.
(That’s from memory from seeing coverage on 1 News, I’ll update when they put the item up online.)