Ardern brings $1.9 million of koha excitement to Ra¯tana celebration
Delegation of MPs from all parties bar Act arrive to celebrate church centenary
Thousands are flooding to Ra¯tana Pa¯ as centenary celebrations for the church get into full swing. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and a delegation of MPs from all parties bar Act were officially welcomed to Ra¯tana shortly before 4pm yesterday. Ardern arrived, bearing a “koha” of almost $2 million to fund housing for the Ma¯ori settlement.
Ardern made the joint announcement with Ma¯ori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta of a $1.9m investment in Ra¯tana Pa for housing infrastructure.
The Prime Minister said there was “so much history between Ra¯tana and my Labour family”.
“Building wellbeing for people is where we connect.” Soon after arriving, Ardern offered to give up her place to a young boy.
“Do you want to do that instead of me?” she said to the boy, as she prepared to speak to media before being formally welcomed.
Up to 25,000 people were expected in the village over the coming days. She was surrounded by Ra¯tana faithful and curious children hoping for a glimpse as she made her way to the po¯whiri.
And she took time to answer questions from children at the Rangitahi Village.
Security seemed relaxed despite Ardern’s admission yesterday of having received death threats from an anti-1080 protester.
National’s contingent arrived with less fanfare before being taken into the temple.
In the heat of the afternoon and watched on by a small crowd, Ardern, National leader Simon Bridges, Greens co-leader Marama Davidson and NZ First MP Shane Jones and a contingent of MPs were welcomed.
Those at Ra¯tana’s centenary celebrations yesterday, ahead of the main event today — the date prophet T.W. Ratana was said to have received a vision — were less interested in the formal part of the day.
As the afternoon wore on, and as the procession readied for the po¯whiri, the crowd thinned and it was mainly older people who sat under the marquees to hear the speeches.
Po¯whiri were held all morning as different groups were welcomed to Ra¯tana under a hot sun with temperatures forecast to hit 25C.
Political speeches were followed by a church service and live entertainment later in the evening.
Hope Pihema has been a Ra¯tana follower her whole life, going to church every week in Northland.
But this is her first trip to the birthplace of the church, coming down with 50 others by bus on Tuesday.
“It’s interesting as, hot as and heaps of people. It’s the first time I’ve come here but I’ve always wanted to come. I like the temple.”
With Ra¯tana swelling to the size of a small city emergency services have stationed staff on site for the week.
Fire and Emergency Station officer Carl Moon said it was mainly about access in the event of an emergency with so many more people and vehicles in the area. The housing investment announced by Ardern and Mahuta yesterday was about building a healthy community, not just healthy homes, the Prime Minister said.
“The $1.9 million investment will support the development of 26 sections on Ma¯ori freehold land for wha¯nau to build on, and live in new homes,” Ardern said.
“This is just the start — phase two of the investment will see $1.7 million invested in the future to develop a further 34 sections.”
Te Tai Hauauru MP, Ra¯tana local and great-grandson of T.W. Ratana, Adrian Rurawhe said the centenary was an exciting time.
“I think, most significantly for us, is we are celebrating 100 years but we’re also looking to the future and I’m really proud of our young people who have played a significant role in the organisation.”
Rurawhe said the number were significantly more than the annual church celebrations, with followers from as far as Australia coming to the pa¯ for the first time. “I’m really optimistic about the church’s future,” Rurawhe said.
— Whangnui Chronicle and NZ Herald
Jacinda Ardern took time to answer questions from children at the Rangitahi Village.