Politicians not invited to Ratana Pā this year

This month’s annual Ratana celebrations will not involve politicians, with the marae committee wanting a one-day event on Wellington Anniversary Day for followers only.

The annual celebrations at Ratana Pā mark the January 25 birthday of Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana – the founder of the church and movement.

The first day of the usually three-day event is often seen as marking the start of the political year with politicians of all stripes attending.

The Ratana Church has asked political parties not to attend, and a Government spokesperson said Labour respected its position, and hoped to be back there in future.

The Rātana Komiti Marae is at odds with the Rātana Church National Executive, which had wanted to invite political parties and hold the usual three-day celebration.

In October a new church executive was formed.

In early November the Ratana Komiti Marae met to plan the celebrations, which usually attract thousands and begin with a pōwhiri for political parties.

It decided to hold a one-day gathering only this year, on January 25, with Covid-19 precautions, the usual church service at noon, and packaged meals.

“It’s about us doing our part. We don’t want to be accused of ignoring the signs,” chairman Maynard Mason said.

Mason said the committee made its plans with advice from Whanganui District Health Board and Whanganui District Council.

Its Facebook page asks people to register, and says some of the church parishes will be celebrating at home.

It had always been the marae committee’s job to run the celebrations, Mason said.

But new Ratana Church National Executive chairman Hareruia Aperahama said that had been the church’s role, and the executive intended to maintain that position of authority.

The marae committee’s one-day limit did not allow the church to invite political parties to the celebrations as it had planned.

“We can’t receive our esteemed guests. It would have been a wonderful opportunity to say thank you to our Prime Minister.”

It had always been the church that sets the agenda and programme on significant religious days, he said.

“There are a number of festivals happening now with huge gatherings and this shouldn’t be any different,” he said.

He was disappointed by the confusion about this year’s event, and said there were clearly some issues that needed to be addressed internally.

The church and movement were going through an internal transformation and needed to restore and strengthen themselves, he said.

He hoped wānanga, workshops and vision sessions during this year’s January 25 event would help with that.

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