A good day at Ratana today with the Labour party delegation led by Phil Goff and Annette King. For me personally, it was good to see and chat with many old friends. I and others also received a very warm welcome from Tariana Turia on the paepae.
Labour and Ratana go back a very long way. Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana was a remarkable prophet – he founded a church, then a movement, aiming for the spiritual and material benefit of Maori. Harry Holland was the first Labour leader to visit the marae in the 1920’s, and Ratana went to Parliament in 1936 to meet Michael Joseph Savage and establish a covenant with Labour symbolised by the gifts of a broken watch, a potato, and a huia feather, asking for support for establishing the Treaty of Waitangi in legislation, resolution of land grievances and restoration of Maori mana.
While the relationship has had its ups and downs over the years Andre Meihana told our group today that Ratana wished to reconnect with Labour. The party has also indicated it too wishes to reconnect – it has selected four candidates with Ratana connections, one of whom, Rino Tirikatene, is the grandson of the first Ratana Member of Parliament, Sir Eruera Tirikatene.
In his remarks, Phil Goff said that it was Labour ministers Matiu Rata and Koro Wetere who introduced legislation to establish the Waitangi Tribunal, and then allow grievances to be taken back to the date of the Treaty. Phil Goff also stressed Labour’s priorities – lift Maori employment, give all young people a head start in life, provide a decent after-tax income for families to put food on the table, and remove oppressive labour laws.
There certainly seems to be a shift in attitude among many in Maoridom; everyone I spoke to expressed this view. There will be much to discuss and straight talking will be the order of the day. I’m looking forward to it.