The Rātana 25th celebrations are a happy occasion with a lot of attention on youth and a lot of attention on politics, Mita Ririnui says.
And there's a sense of development at Ratana with a new subdivision under way and ultrafast broadband now extended into the town.
The big day is today, January 25, the birthday of Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana. He founded the Rātana Church and movement, which has about 60,000 followers according to its internal census.
Ririnui arrived at Rātana Pā, near Whanganui, on Wednesday. He lives in the Bay of Plenty and has been a Ratana āpotoro rēhita (minister) for 40 years. At home he takes services on marae and prays for the sick and infirm, as well as doing farm and community work.
At Rātana he helps with organisation and makes statements on behalf of the church.
One of the things he helps to decide is who sits on the paepae and who speaks to the visitors who arrive in waves for a series of pōwhiri.
"It's unreasonable to expect that some people will sit there for several days. We rotate them," he said.
Ririnui was also a Labour MP from 1999 to 2011, representing the Waiariki Māori seat for the first six years, and as a list MP for the remaining six.
He's from a committed Rātana family and they have been coming to the annual celebrations for as long as he can remember.
"The whole year would be committed to fundraising and organising the annual trip down here."
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He will spend lots of time talking politics and social issues, and have his own quiet time in the temple to pray for himself and his large family.
There is always much informal talk about Māori issues at the celebrations. This year Ririnui expects talk about the land issue at Ihumātao, and about what is happening with Whānau Ora.
"Sitting down over lunch talking to people who come from afar is time well spent," he said.
Rātana morehu (followers) don't have to vote Labour, but the relationship between the Labour Party that began with T.W. Rātana and Labour leader Michael Joseph Savage endures.
"There have been ups and downs in the relationship, and Rātana voters have basically walked away. But every time that's happened they have come back."
He expects about 10,000 people on site today for a service in the temple with music from a choir and the church's seven brass bands.
"Ratana adherents love music, particularly spiritual music."
While politicians speak and young people play sport, there are other developments at the village.
Earthworks have started on a subdivision of 60 new house lots, which will increase its current population of 450. It's a project that has been talked of for years, and it was the $3.6 million that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised during the November 8 celebrations of T.W. Ratana's vision that got it started.
Also, ultra-fast broadband has been extended into the town. Ratana ICT Hub manager Puawai Hagger has wanted this for 10 years.
She sees it as a source of employment for Ratana people, who will be able to sell digital content in te reo Māori - instead of getting jobs in freezing works.
The extension is part of the Provincial Growth Fund's $21 million Marae Digital Connectivity programme. Funding from the Whanganui Community Foundation and Four Regions Trust has also contributed.
"The whole community can connect up now. It's quite amazing how many people have come on to it," Hagger said.