While thousands will reflect on the first 100 years of the Rātana Church on Thurdsay, the focus will very much be on the future.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spent more than an hour with Rātana children yesterday after she arrived bearing "koha" of almost $2 million to fund housing in the settlement.

Rātana's centenary celebrations ramped up yesterday with thousands being welcomed, including political parties, as temperatures soared into the mid-20s.

Rātana was a sea of people, tents, stalls and entertainment with five days of celebrations planned around today's official centenary.

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Up to 25,000 people are expected to attend.

Hawea Meihana helped organise Ardern's time with Rātana children and said it was "a huge opportunity to engage youth and get the ear of Ardern about Rātana's future".

"It's not all the time you get to be in the presence of the Prime Minister let alone to talk and play games and actually have the opportunity to determine what it is that the Prime Minister is going to do in the time that you've got her," Meihana said.

The celebrations drew lifetime church followers from across the country and some - like Hope Pihema - had never been to Rātana.

"It's interesting as, hot as, and heaps of people," Pihema said. "It's the first time I've come here but I've always wanted to come. I like the temple."

Ardern said there was "so much history between Rātana and my Labour family".

"Building wellbeing for people is where we connect."

Eden Mako, Hope Pihema and Riana Mako have came down from Mangamuka in Northland to the celebrations. Photo / Zaryd Wilson
Eden Mako, Hope Pihema and Riana Mako have came down from Mangamuka in Northland to the celebrations. Photo / Zaryd Wilson

Ardern said the housing investment announced by her and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta was about building a healthy community, not just healthy homes.

The $1.9m investment will support the development of 26 sections on Māori freehold land for whānau to build on.

National Party leader Simon Bridges told the Chronicle the day was all about paying respect to the Church.

"It's an amazing story, the story of T.W. Rātana."

While he acknowledged he was in Labour territory, he said National had achieved things at Rātana.

"We haven't got the votes but the National Party has had a very practical relationship that has ensured houses have been built."

National Party leader Simon Bridges and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern walked on to Rātana side by side. Photo / Mark Mitchell
National Party leader Simon Bridges and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern walked on to Rātana side by side. Photo / Mark Mitchell

In the heat of the afternoon Ardern, Bridges, Greens co-leader Marama Davidson and NZ First MP Shane Jones and a contingent of MPs were welcomed with a powhiri together.

The celebrations mark 100 years since prophet Tahupotiki Wiremu Rātana is said to have received a divine revelation from which the Rātana Church was born.

It has special significance for his great-grandson and Te Tai Hauāuru MP Adrian Rurawhe.

"I think most significantly for us is we are celebrating 100 years, but we're also looking to the future and I'm really proud of our young people who have played a significant role in the organisation," he said.

"I'm really optimistic about the Church's future."

The band were on deck to welcome the politicians to Rātana. Photo/ Zaryd Wilson
The band were on deck to welcome the politicians to Rātana. Photo/ Zaryd Wilson

Meihana agreed the celebrations were an opportunity to engage youth and "build leaders by design and not by default".

"One hundred years ago where we're standing right now Mr Rātana would come out here and graze his land.

"If you go back then and then look at where we are now – we've come along way.

"We have a lot of people in positions that determine change for the betterment of us but because they haven't lived our experiences they're unaware of what the necessary requirements are for that change."