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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ratana readies for political debates

Ratana Pa near Whanganui is preparing for an influx of politicians today, including Prime Minister John Key and his Maori Party allies and Labour leader Phil Goff with members of his caucus.

They will join thousands of morehu or church members in marking the birthday of church founder Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana.

Ratana-raised entertainer Ruia Aperahama says the annual hui continues to be a draw for MPs because morehu always vote, unlike many other sectors of the Maori community.

He says Ratana and Maori politics are inextricably linked.

“Holding the four Maori seats for half a century, a lot of Maori families that share that legacy, it’s no surprise they are still continuing those discussions at their family table. My experience around the country with morehu and at the huis, there is a strong core political body out there,” Mr Aperahama says.


Meanwhile, Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples he’s ready to discuss coalition agreements with either National or Labour after the next election.

Dr Sharples says the Party’s support agreement with National has allowed it to make gains which would not been impossible outside of government.

But that doesn't mean it must team up again with John Key next time and would consider Labour.

“For us it’s a question of who will dance with us, because we have our policy, and it’s Maori, it’s not right, it’s not left, and we’re wide open to be asked to join people but it will be that sort of relationship, that we can’t stray really from why we’re there and it’s things Maori which we believe what’s good for Maori is good for New Zealand,” Dr Sharples says.


It's all go at Waiohika near Gisborne as volunteers work to get the natural amphitheatre ready for Te Matatini national kapahaka championships in three weeks.

Organising committee member Willie Te Aho says the biannual festival is creating unprecedented international interest, with seven international broadcasters attending.

He says the Guinness Book of Records is also getting in on the act, as the festival attempts to beat the record of 3264 people doing a haka, set at the Tainui games three years ago.

“We’re going to have on the last day up to 20,000 people on site and we want to get people involved in being a part of creating as new benchmark in Guinness Book of Records,” Mr Te Aho says.

More than 5000 tickets to the four day event have already been sold.


Labour's associate education spokesperson says a programme designed to increase Maori and Pasifika participation in tertiary education has confirmed the superiority of the NCEA system over Cambridge exams.

Kelvin Davis says Education Minister Anne Tolley is undermining public confidence in the national certificate of educational achievement by backing Auckland Grammar’s decision to only offer NCEA to its weakest students.

He says the school’s decision is based on elitist prejudice rather than research, such as the Starpath project used in other Auckland schools.

“The reason that Starpath says CEA is a better predictor of success than Cambridge is because the NCEA system sort of replicates the way teaching occurs in university so students are better prepared at university than the old fashioned system which is what Cambridge is of going through the year and at the end of the year having a big exam,” Mr Davis says.

He says the minister is too scared to front up to the National Party supporters on Auckland Grammar’s board of trustees.


The head of prison reform advocacy group Rethinking Crime and Punishment says imprisoning people for non-payment of traffic fines would discriminate against Maori and the poor.

Kim Workman from Ngati Kahungunu says the proposed change in the Courts and Criminal Matters Bill runs counter to international research.

He says judges already have the discretion to jail people rather than adding another fine to their existing tariff – and it’s happening more often.

“What we’re finding is that with the recession the numbers of people being sent to prison for non-payment of fines is just out of all proportion and so what we’re doing is imprisoning people because they are poor, not because they necessarily refuse to pay fines,” Mr Workman says.

He says jailing non-payers imposes huge costs on the taxpayer, as well as harming the offender’s family.


The 21st annual waka ama championships wrapped up over the weekend, with thousands of paddlers from round the country churning up the waters of Lake Karapiro.

Hoturoa Kerr from Nga Kaihoe o Aotearoa says the event confirmed the popularity of the sport in Maori and Pacifika communities.

He says the host region can hold its head up high, with the Turangawaewae Waka Sports club having a particularly successful regatta.

“From little kids and midgets all the way through to the adults and masters it was great to see their fielding one of the biggest club showings and in terms of club points for the whole regatta they came second so I think it’s great for a club that’s just started off and just getting into the swing of things,” Mr Kerr says.

The country’s top paddlers will now focus on fundraising to attend the next world waka ama championships in Canada.

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