Among the celebrations at Ratana this weekend will be serious talk about the Trans Pacific Partnership and ownership of water, Te Tai Hauauru MP Adrian Rurawhe says.

A Ratana member himself, the Labour MP was on the paepae as a group representing Whanganui's Tira Hoe Waka river journey was welcomed to the marae yesterday, the first of four big days at the Rangitikei settlement.

Thousands were already gathered, some in tents and some sleeping in marquees or the marae's sleeping halls.

The Tira Hoe Waka group was led on to the marae by a brass band.


The group's speakers included John Maihi and Che Wilson.

Mr Rurawhe said as well as stating their support for celebrations of prophet T.W. Ratana's birthday, they raised grave concerns about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

There are groups coming to the celebration just to express their disapproval of New Zealand signing it.

They have been told they can come but will have to express their views on the marae and not disrupt proceedings in a disrespectful way.

"Everyone is welcome here, so they are quite welcome to come. We would prefer that they come on and had their say on the marae."

Ratana people are also worried about the TPP trampling Treaty of Waitangi rights by cutting across the Government's ability to regulate and legislate.

"Some (rights) are signed away, and from a Maori world view that also signs away part of our treaty rights because we see that as being a partnership between the Crown and Maori," Mr Rurawhe said.

He's concerned himself, especially about Government inability to limit land sales to foreign residents.

"From my point of view, that's signing away sovereignty."

Mr Rurawhe has the job of rebuilding the relationship between the Ratana movement and the Labour Party, with a meeting between leaders on April 22. He said the process had already started, with Ratana approving him as a Labour candidate.

"Ratana people think I'm their man in Labour, and Labour people think I'm their man in Ratana," he said.

This year, for the first time, all the country's political parties have been asked to arrive at Ratana at the same time - 2pm tomorrow.

Mr Rurawhe said that could be an interesting dynamic.

"They will have to sort themselves out in terms of who's speaking. They will just have to negotiate among themselves."

Another at the gathering, as media, was former Whanganui man Eru Rerekura. After four years at Radio New Zealand, he's now working for Television New Zealand's Te Karere Maori News.

The area he covers will be the South and Chatham Islands, Wellington and the lower west coast of the North Island, including Whanganui. But he's also in charge of politics, and thinks that will take most of his time.

He's heard co-ordinated marches are planned across New Zealand and Australia on February 4, when the TPP is signed.

While official visitors are being welcomed at Ratana other programmes continue - discussions on Maori ICT, discos, talent quests, sport, youth media training and daily church services.

Many help out behind the scenes. Head cook Murray Ririnui was in the kitchen, where the breakfast sitting had closed and vegetables and meat were being prepared for a dinner for 2000.

"I used to live at Ratana. Now I stay at Tauranga, but I still feel part of this place," he said.

He's been helping out at the celebrations for 47 years, with dances and discos before being "promoted" to the kitchen.

"It's low key at the moment. Tomorrow it will be full bore. We average 15,000 to 20,000, but we fed 45,000 25 years ago."

More than half the food needed was donated, he said.