The Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was the centre of attention at Rātana Pa today in more ways than one, as everyone had a go at suggesting baby names for her.

The Rātana celebration has extra significance this year, it's the 100th time they have been held in this small community, just outside Whanganui.

But for 2018, it was clear to the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, what was the top of agenda.

"I was asked actually while I was in, if I would like to join for baptism. I suspect it was an attempt to baptise the baby early, with your chosen given name," Ardern said. "And Andre I can tell you, that is not the first suggestion of a name I have had. Trevor, James, Grant, Winston's been suggested by others, I've even had the suggestion he should be the godfather, I pointed out he already was."


Minister of Regional Economic Development Shane Jones, was quick to crack a joke too.

"Prime Minister, you are hearing all these Māori's offer names for the new baby, when they offer a name make sure they give you land as well," Jones said.

With baby business out of the way, Ardern was quick to get down to politics.

"I want to also acknowledge Tahupotiki Wiremu Rātana's prophecy that Māori salvation would come when ruling this land would be the shoe maker, the watchmaker, the carpenter and the blacksmith. When the working people, the people who truly represent Māori and maoridom have a place at the table, who guide the future of this country and I want to share a commitment to that here today," Ardern said.

Winston Peters was also shown a warm welcome with the crowd applauding his presence. He pounced to remind everyone of last year's celebrations where he clashed with the Opportunities Party leader Gareth Morgan.

"Remember the cat man that you indulged and the media gave him all the coverage, so why is he not back today? Do you want to know what's changed? What's changed is a new government with a change in its programme and its plan endeavouring to take those four issues gathering dust on the table of Māori history and revive their purpose to first world housing, first world education, first world employment and wages and first world health that's what we intend to do," Peters said.

This year Bill English returned to Rātana as the leader of the opposition. He's visited the celebration almost every year since 2001 and today warned the people of Rātana of the new government's plans.

"You have a government that many Māori voted for obviously, but be careful that it's not a step back. That you don't become believers again in government and its cash and the lure of its influence when what we have seen flourishing is the Rangatiratanga, the mana motuhake that Rātana certainly must have meant when he said he will plough down to the red earth. Because in Aotearoa we're seeing that red earth," English said.


More than 150,000 people are expected to attend the Rātana celebrations which will continue until Friday.

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