Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's daughter Neve has been on her first visit to Rātana - fulfilling a promise her mother had made earlier.

Ardern arrived for the annual celebrations at the pā with partner Clarke Gayford and baby Neve.

Neve is now an energetic toddler, who raced about with two DPS keeping a discreet eye on her and Speaker Trevor Mallard hobbling behind her trying to keep up.

Neve Ardern Gayford with dad Clarke Gayford at Ratana 2020. Photo / Bevan Conley
Neve Ardern Gayford with dad Clarke Gayford at Ratana 2020. Photo / Bevan Conley

Rātana was Ardern's first public appearance after announcing she was pregnant in January 2018.

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Then, a woman had touched Ardern's stomach in blessing. Rātana had also been the first to gift a name to Neve - a Māori tradition to honour a child. The name was Waru - which means eight.

Ardern had chosen Te Aroha as one of Neve's names by way of acknowledging the many names gifted to her child by iwi around New Zealand.

She had promised to bring Neve when it was possible and had gifted some flax plants from Neve to Rātana in December 2018, when the church marked its centenary.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke at a pōwhiri for political parties on Wednesday afternoon, as did National leader Simon Bridges and Greens co-leader Marama Davidson. Made with funding from NZ On Air.

Ardern was guided over to the paepae to give her speech, as in the past.

"For the first time I have brought my family to Rātana."

She recalled the gift of harakeke. "Depending how Neve behaves today, I may gift her to you this time."

She said Neve Te Aroha was the eighth grandchild in her family, so the name Waru - which means eight - was appropriate.

Prime Minister Jacinda and Winston Peters at Ratana. Photo / Bevan Conley
Prime Minister Jacinda and Winston Peters at Ratana. Photo / Bevan Conley

Ardern also used her speech to defend her record with Māori after National Party leader Simon Bridges earlier in the day had told them to challenge her on what she had delivered.

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She also joked about Bridges claim that Labour's hands were "soft" because they were not hard working: "When you meet our [government MPs] and you shake their hands, and you feel the callouses on those hard-working hands, please talk to them about what we are doing and must keep doing for those people."

Ardern raised Whānau Ora briefly - it was shaping up as a contentious topic after Dame Tariana Turia and her coalition of Dames challenged whether the Government was letting it slide.

Turia was among those on the paepae at Rātana listening on. Ardern sought to calm the waters: "Whānau Ora works. It works. The rest we'll keep working on."

Turia was among those on the paepae listening to Ardern.

NZ First leader Winston Peters delivered a shorter than usual speech, saying 2020 would be a "hard, grinding campaign" and there was a tough year ahead.

Peters recalled a broken watch was among the gifts given to Labour by TW Rātana. "Well, a broken watch tells the right time two times a day. And politically speaking its up to you to make sure it remains on the right time come 2020."

He also got in a pitch for the Provincial Growth Fund, pointing out Rātana Pā had just got ultra-fast broadband courtesy of it.

"So I fully expect our friends in the media to be able to report that without interruption."

Neve's presence was acknowledged by Rātana's speaker Rahui Papa, who welcomed Ardern and "your pēpē" [baby], adding that he also welcomed Winston Peters "and your pēpē - Shane Jones".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Ratana. Photo / Bevan Conley
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Ratana. Photo / Bevan Conley
National Party delegation at Ratana celebrations 2020. Photo / Bevan Conley
National Party delegation at Ratana celebrations 2020. Photo / Bevan Conley

Ardern walked onto the pā with government partners NZ First leader Winston Peters on her right and Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson on her left. A large delegation of ministers and government MPs also visited.

Earlier Ardern had proved popular as she walked around the grounds, playing games with children and taking part in a TikTok clip.

But it was not all fun and games.

One of those speaking in Ardern's powhiri was Māori Party co-President Che Wilson, who pleaded with Ardern to be careful about the use of armed police units. He said he was concerned that would see Māori targeted.