Tomorrow marks the traditional beginning of the political year with the celebrations at Rātana.
Labour’s connection with the Rātana church is long and deep – going back to the 1930s, with Sir Eruera Tirikatene signing an allegiance with Michael Joseph Savage, and merging the Rātana political wing and it’s two MPs into the Labour Party.
The relationship between Rātana and Labour has been strained in recent years however, and probably reached it’s nadir in 2010.
That said, we have entered a new parliamentary term with a new leadership team, and most importantly, a new Rātana MP in Rino Tirikatene, the new MP for Te Tai Tonga. Rino is of course a descendent of Sir Eruera, and the late Dame Whetu, who held the seat of Southern Maori for Labour for a combined total of 64 years. His connections within Rātana are strong (I’ve even heard rumours that there are photos of him dressed up for the Rātana band when he was a youngster, I’ll try and see what I can find…)
Labour has turned a new page, and Rino is hopefully the start of new representation and connection within the Rātana and wider Māori communities. We have worked so well together in the past, now is the time to make sure we ensure both organisations are stronger together.