Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will be the fifth Labour leader to present herself at Ratana Pa in nine years - but she can expect to be feted as the first of them to make it to Prime Minister.

Ardern and a cavalcade of Labour MPs and Ministers will make the triumphant return to Ratana on Wednesday – this time in Government rather than as the Opposition.

Ardern will be welcomed on at Ratana Pa with coalition partners NZ First and the Green Party before National leader Bill English and his MPs are welcomed later in the day. The Maori Party arrived on Tuesday.

The Ratana Church has historic links to the Labour Party after its founding prophet Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana formed an alliance with former PM Michael Joseph Savage in 1936.


That alliance has been tested by parties such as the Maori Party, but has stood the test of time.

Ardern said she would acknowledge that long-standing relationship. Asked if she believed there would be expectations from the Ratana movement now Labour was back in Government, she said she would welcome that.

"Expectations are what keep driving you harder."

The Church marks its centennial this year and she said that would be acknowledged.

National leader Bill English said he expected a warm, respectful welcome, as he had in the past.

"But I think the tone will be different. They'll clearly be engaging with the new Government. It's an interesting time for them because the Government would probably expect they'd have a lot of support from those attending Ratana."

His message to the Ratana faithful would be that they had made gains in the past nine years.

"What Maori have to watch out for is the urge of Labour to control Maori institutions. Labour have never been happy with the degree of independence or rangatiratanga that iwi have shown.

They shouldn't allow the new Government, which has a much stronger view about the role of Government, it doesn't fundamentally like independence from Maori. They shouldn't let that get in the way of progressing."

English stood by his comments of last week that the Government could not "save" the Maori language, saying it was "stating the obvious".

He said the Government did have some responsibility for the language and exercised that through measures such as Maori language broadcasting.

"The Government has carried out its responsibilities but in the long run it is dependent on families and communities speaking it. That is the home of the language, around the table, in the lounge."

"I'm a bit more optimistic than some. I've met so many young Maori who are fluent, bi-cultural, bi-lingual, quite confident about it. I think te reo will survive."

In 2002 English was the first National leader to make the pilgrimage to the Labour stronghold.