Rangitīkei, Whanganui councils send strong message of support at Rātana

Posted 23 January 2024 by Moana Ellis
Rangitīkei Mayor Andy Watson.

Rangitīkei Mayor Andy Watson said he was not at Rātana for politics, but it couldn’t be ignored. Photo: Supplied / Aka Creative via LDR

Local government leaders have addressed the paepae at Rātana with messages of support, laying down a plea for Māori to make their political views understood, a pledge to help carry their voice to the government and a commitment to a “Te Tiriti-centric” way of working.

Rangitīkei and Whanganui district councils were among the first group of manuhiri welcomed at Rātana on Monday, two days ahead of government and opposition leaders joining the annual celebration of the birthday of Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana on Wednesday.

Rangitīkei Mayor Andy Watson offered his help to place the views of Māoridom before the government.

“We’re not here for the politics, but they can’t be ignored and I will be listening over the next few days.

“It is part of my role, I believe, to help take your collective voice to government. So please make sure the government understands your position – a position that I suspect I support strongly.”

Watson said he thought last year’s celebrations would be the last time he would address the paepae, as he usually spoke at Rātana at the start of the local government triennium only.

“At that time, I promised to myself as much as to anybody else that I would be here, that I would be present, that I would be listening, and I would work with our council on a number of the infrastructural matters that sit before us.

“A lot of those concerns have or are being addressed. We’ve invested heavily in the infrastructure here at Rātana. But there are all sorts of other infrastructural matters that also need the government’s help. Let’s take a collective voice to government over those concerns.”

Watson said he signalled in his address a year ago that there could be a change of government and with it could come uncertainty.

“Unfortunately, those uncertainties still sit with us. We are still not sure around where things such as wastewater and RMA policies will sit. So, again, I stress that it’s important that I’m able to take those messages to government.”

Whanganui councillor Josh Chandulal-Mackay

Whanganui councillor Josh Chandulal-Mackay told the paepae that his council was committed to undertaking its role in a ‘Te Tiriti-centric way’. Photo: Supplied / Aka Creative via LDR

Whanganui councillor Josh Chandulal-Mackay, standing in for Whanganui Mayor Andrew Tripe, said his message to Rātana and Māori was simple.

“Right now we’re in a time of pretty significant political volatility and I want to stress the importance of relationships with our iwi partners, with our Māori partners, with our hapū partners.

“I also want to acknowledge that Whanganui District Council is committed to a te tiriti-centric way of undertaking our role. That’s what I want to bring across today at this special occasion.”

Chandulal-Mackay told Local Democracy Reporting the turnout of thousands to the Hui-ā-Motu called by Kiingi Tuheitia on Saturday sent a strong message.

“It’s clear to me, despite what David Seymour says, that more than 10,000 people responding to a royal proclamation from the Kiingitanga is not minor, and it speaks to the level of feeling and the concern out there right now.”

The Rangitīkei mayor ended his address with an emotional message of gratitude.

“We are here to principally recognise the birthday of T W Rātana. Rātana, for me, is an incredibly special place, especially when I’m troubled.

“I come out here and I let myself quietly in the temple because I admire the peace, the serenity, the messages and the legacy that he has left us. Truly, Rātana is my special place.

“Because this may well be the last time that I speak here, I want to thank you. You have made this place a very special place for me. Thank you for understanding my lack of te reo, thank you for giving me the chance to speak, and thank you for accepting me as your own.”

Symbol of unity

Te Pāti Māori broke away from Rātana tradition on Tuesday, with co-leader Rāwiri Waititi and the Te Pāti Māori caucus opting to be welcomed to the pā alongside the Kiingitanga – a day earlier than the other political parties. Co-leader Debbie Ngārewa-Packer was welcomed earlier among the first group of manuhiri on Monday.

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rāwiri Waititi.

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rāwiri Waititi addresses the paepae alongside the Kiingitanga Photo: LDR / Moana Ellis

The party described Tuesday’s move as “a symbol of kotahitanga and unity as te iwi Māori”.

“This is the first time in the history of Rātana that a political party has broken away from tradition of attending with other parties, and the first time a political party has attended alongside the Kiingitanga.”

The Rātana celebrations mark the start of the political year as Parliament prepares to return after the summer recess.

The Green Party will be welcomed to Rātana Pā on Wednesday morning, followed by Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and the National Party, and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and NZ First.

ACT leader David Seymour has said he would not be attending.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.