The Maori Party and Mana Movement have made a symbolic joint appearance at the first big political event of the year in Ratana.

Maori Party co-leaders Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox and Mana leader Hone Harawira walked onto the Ratana Pa near Wanganui side-by-side this afternoon.

The two parties are in talks about working together at the general election, possibly by formally merging or by making agreements to step aside in some Maori seats to give the other party a clear run. Labour, who will be welcomed on to the pa tomorrow, holds six of the seven Maori electorates.

There was bad blood between Flavell and Harawira after Harawira left the Maori Party in 2011 in protest at its support agreement with National. That is clearly in the past. Before the two men walked onto the pa grounds at Ratana, Harawira embraced Flavell in a bear-hug in full view of media.


Flavell has said he could work with any party in the best interests of Maori and the country. His party lost two seats to Labour at the last election, and Harawira lost the Te Tai Tokerua seat to Labour's Kelvin Davis.

In a rare move, members of the Kingitanga movement, including King Tuheutia's oldest son Whatumoana, walked onto the Ratana grounds alongside the two Maori parties. Kingitanga has been mainly apolitical and usually walks onto the marae separately from political parties.

The Kingitanga and the Ratana Church have had close associations with the Labour Party in the past - which ended in 1996 when New Zealand First won all the Maori seats.

King Tuheitia criticised Labour at the tenth anniversary of his coronation last year, saying the party should not take Maori support for granted. He also spoke positively of the Maori Party and Mana, while stopping short of formally endorsing them. King Tuheitia is recovering from a kidney transplant and did not attend today's event.

Former Maori Party co-leader Dame Tariana Turia echoed the King's comments at Ratana today. Speaking to reporters, she said Ratana had been "intensely loyal" to Labour and Labour now needed to "step up".

"If they think that they hold the key to Maori future, they have to show us."

Dame Tariana added: "You have to vote for something that you believe in. It's part of your heritage, really, about who you are.

"If you think you can find that within the Labour Party, then well, go for it.


"But history hasn't told us that."

"The houses out here [in Ratana], they were built by the National Party, not by Labour."

Labour leader Andrew Little will visit Ratana tomorrow afternoon.

The annual gathering at Ratana celebrates the birth date of the church and political movement's founder Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana and marks the first political event of the year.