Monday 23rd January 2017
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Prime Minister Bill English is declining to say whether the date for this year’s general election will be announced on Tuesday this week after the first Cabinet meeting of the year.
“We’re still considering that,” he said in answer to questions from journalists at Ratana Pa, where English led a delegation of government ministers to the annual celebrations of the religious movement founded by Tahu Potiki Wiremu Ratana.
An early new year announcement of the election date would maintain a practice established by English’s predecessor, John Key, who believed the public favoured certainty over the election date rather than the tradition of the ruling party keeping the date close to its chest to keep opposition parties guessing.
English appeared to deflect rather than deny the suggestion.
“The decisions haven’t been made yet. We’ll let you know.”
Speculation about election dates centres around Saturday, Sept. 23 or, if held early, a date in late July after the British and Irish Lions rugby tour of New Zealand has finished.
English appealed to members of the Ratana church gathered at the movement’s spiritual home, Ratana Pa south of Whanganui, to “reawaken the spirit of enterprise among Maori” because “we have reached the limits of what government can do – government grants, programmes, more public servants.”
“What I see around the country and it’s obvious to every New Zealander, is the burgeoning spirit of enterprise” among Maori businesspeople.
This was not traditional “development”, which implied government action to create wealth, but “enterprise owned by iwi, whanau, and hapu.”
On Maori social issues, English said the public sector had now entrenched the concept of Whanau Ora – a policy to deliver Maori health and family services through Maori channels.
“It’s you who know the whanau, you who they know they can trust. The government can’t and doesn’t know it. That’s tino rangatiratanga (self-determination) and we believe in that,” English said.
Occasional downpours held off during the powhiri and English’s response on a blustery day at Ratana Pa.
English acknowledged the fact it was his second time at Ratana as leader of the National Party – the first time 15 years as ago as “leader of a failing Opposition” and “today as the leader of a successful government.”
English quipped the government was doing so well under his leadership that the former Prime Minister, John Key, who resigned in early December, had noted a few days ago that English was “doing the job almost as well as he did.”
Also due at Ratana Pa this afternoon is the Maori Party leadership, who are choosing to go onto the marae with the Maori King, Tuheitia, rather than with other political parties tomorrow.
The Maori Party has been urging Ratana to break its tradition of support for the Labour Party, as the Kingitanga did last year.
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