Kiingi Tuheitia arrived at Rātana on Tuesday with fanfare, just days after his call for a national hui gathered 10,000 together in unity.
It was a showing of Maori solidarity not lost on anyone at Ratana on Tuesday.
“We are definitely all together and unifying to express the importance and the significance of maintaining the relationship and the principals of te Tiriti o Waitangi,” said Ratana representative Te Taepa Kameta.
A key aim of the Rātana movement centred around the Church founded 100 years ago was recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi.
This year as the event that’s viewed as the unofficial start to the political year gets underway, the Treaty and its principles are in the spotlight more than ever.
Part of ACT’s coalition agreement deal was the inclusion of a Treaty Principals Bill to ‘clarify’ its meaning.
“There is no need to re-invent new principals, there’s been solid discussion and work that has been achieved in years beforehand,” Kameta said.
Attending Ratana for the first time as Opposition leader last year, Christopher Luxon is doing it for the first time as Prime Minister Wednesday against an entirely different political backdrop.
The Prime Minister has said National will support ACT’s Treaty Principals Bill to Select Committee stage – and that’s drawn sharp criticism from Te Pāti Māori.
“We have a Prime Minister who is comfortable to leverage, to leverage off Māori and off tangata whenua and our whakapapa and our Tiriti to become the Prime Minister,” Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa Packer said.
Today at his first post-Cabinet press conference of the year, Luxon wouldn’t rule out supporting the Bill further.
“Well there is no commitment to take it beyond that and I just say as the National leader our position has been well understood for a long period of time,” he said.
NZ First MP Shane Jones was a little clearer, quick to confirm New Zealand First won’t support it further.
“We’ll participate in the process to have the bill tabled in Parliament, debated in Parliament, referred to Select Committee, and after that we won’t be voting for it,” he said.
A discussion that will no doubt follow the Prime Minister to Ratana tomorrow for the beginning of a political year that’s already kicking off before its unofficial start.