Ratana Church - what's it all about?
The stage is set for the annual Ratana Church celebrations which start today.
Maori leaders were welcomed yesterday, with politicians arriving today kicking off the start of the political year. It's the first time in nine years Labour has attended as the ruling party.
And as politicians line up at Ratana, RadioLIVE's Morning Talk host Mark Sainsbury seeks to find out what exactly Ratana is and why it has such an influence in New Zealand politics today.
The Ratana church was started by Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana who was a prominent faith healer in 1920.
As his fame spread Maori people travelled from all over New Zealand to be healed by Ratana.
The Ratana movement then took attention to the Treaty of Waitangi and the wrongs affecting the Maori people. From then Ratana moved to the field of politics.
AUT History professor Paul Moon told Mark Sainsbury while Ratana's influence has waned, the annual political pilgrimage is one of the few links to an earlier time in the country.
"It's a place where a lot of politicians from different political parties can get together, discuss things on the side of the fence, and that doesn't happen often - it only happens a few times a year, where they're not combative and where they get a chance to hear what a lot of Maori are concerned about," he said.
Despite the church's small membership, Dr Moon says T W Ratana's influence extends to all Maori.
"They may not be members, they may not even believe in what the church preaches, but they say well look 'we've got relations who are in it, we're sympathetic to what they do...
And so the political influence of the church extends beyond its membership
It's the church's centennial year with a large celebration planned for November.
Listen to the full interview with Dr Paul Moon above.
Morning Talk with Mark Sainsbury, weekdays from 9am-noon on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the ROVA app on Android and iPhone.
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