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

Hawke's Bay Today - - Nation - Zaryd Wil­son, Lucy Ben­nett

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

Photo / Mark Mitchell

Jacinda Ardern took time to an­swer ques­tions from chil­dren at the Ran­gi­tahi Vil­lage.

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