Analysis: Rātana is likely a microcosm for the discussion around Māori issues ahead, with no words minced on any side, 1News political reporter Felix Desmarais writes.

Rātana is a place where almost all politicians come to sweat.

There’s the searing late January heat, sure, beating down on any prime minister or opposition leader who dares to stand before Rātana. But the heat is also on for them to be accountable for their promises and their record on Māori issues.

ACT leader David Seymour chose to stay out of that heat, to the chagrin of Labour, Te Pati Māori and the Greens. Seymour has said he will be attending Waitangi commemorations next month.

While some might say Seymour’s willingness to conduct a debate appears to be limited to his own turf, like Parliament, so too could one say it is an honest position.

Seymour does not want to engage in discussions at Rātana, so indeed why bother?

To attend for appearances or for political posturing could be considered disingenuous.

It was clear from discussions with attendees that their longing was for a genuine discussion with engaged politicians who were truly listening. Seymour saved them from wasting their time, breath and hospitality. And himself, some sweat.

Though in Māoridom, there is respect for those who are willing to throw themselves in the lion’s den and face disagreement. And Rātana is likely a microcosm for the discussion around Māori issues ahead, with no words minced on any side.

While PM Christopher Luxon’s speech was met with mostly stony-faced but respectful attention, NZ First’s Winston Peters and Shane Jones’ more blunt speeches faced jeers.

Peters in particular did not shy from addressing those jeering directly and immediately. He’s faced far worse in his time.

Luxon’s speech was, at times, a reheated version of his election stump speech and lacked the verve the occasion perhaps demanded.

While others at Rātana described the new government as a three-headed Taniwha, Labour’s Peeni Henare said he felt the Government was the enemy.

Rātana pā in January 2024 (file).

It’s language perhaps some may find offensive or unhelpful, revealing the feeling among some that the coalition is a cartoonish and grotesque villain — rather than a duly elected government, for better or worse.

Though others too see the perceived battle ahead as a galvanising force for kotahitanga (unity) in the quest for Māori liberation and success.

People at Rātana 1News spoke to said this, and the Kīngitanga even put it on a billboard for heavy traffic in nearby Palmerston North.

Luxon, for his part, remained his regularly cheery self — saying he didn’t view the resistance at Rātana as a negative, just part of robust debate.

It might not be a long-term solution for the debate ahead — but perhaps for the time being the prime minister’s response is simply to not sweat it.