24 Jan 2013

Battle heats up for Maori vote at Ratana

7:04 pm on 24 January 2013

Leaders from the main political parties have made a strong pitch for the Maori vote at next election during speeches at Ratana Pa near Whanganui.

Political leaders from National, Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens have been welcomed on to the pa for the annual celebrations of the church's prophet, Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana, born on 25 January 1873.

A senior Ratana Church spokesperson told those gathered on Thursday that it looks forward to a Labour-Green coalition after the next general election, set to be held in 2014.

In his speech, Labour Party leader David Shearer made a commitment to work closely with Ratana if he is the next Prime Minister and acknowledged the Green Party which walked on to the pa with him.

Mr Shearer said he was also looking forward to the election.

"When I do become Prime Minister - and I thank you for your acknowledgement of that coming up - I hope you are a prophet as well, in terms of being able to see into the future that we are able to have a solid relationship between a Labour government that's in power and the Ratana movement."

David Shearer said that a Labour-led government has policies that will look after those who need jobs, affordable housing and good education.

Prime Minister John Key acknowledged the historical links Ratana has with the Labour Party, but told those gathered that it was a National-led government that fixed up homes at Ratana.

"They can turn up here at Ratana and tell you they love you, but they didn't love you enough to fix up your 113 houses. They didn't love you enough to do that."

Mr Key said his government had also made "serious progress" on Treaty of Waitangi settlements.