MY FIRST official political outing of the year was at Ratana Pa on Sunday. There were a number of National Ministers and MPs in attendance including Ministers Hekia Parata, Nikki Kay, Jo Goodhew, Louise Upston, Paul Goldsmith, Whanganui's Chester Borrows along with Jo Hayes, Chris Bishop and Barbara Kuriger among others.
In a break from tradition, this year politicians were welcomed as one large group. Prime Minister John Key used his speaking slot to outline the Government's commitment to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). He also talked about education in a very positive manner and in particular the Government's commitment to raising educational achievement in schools and learning institutions.
I did feel that the normal etiquette of what is a significant and special day at Ratana was undermined by the antics of a number of people who chose to "boo" the Prime Minister during his address. I felt this was a shame for the Ratana people, who are renowned for hosting a positive forum.
It is also worth noting that the arguments put forward by a noisy few do not stack up. There is nothing in the TPP that will prevent the Crown from meeting its obligations to Maori - the TPP actually includes a specific provision preserving the preeminence of the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand.
The value of the iwi/Maori asset base is more than $40 billion, which includes ownership in key export sectors such as red meat, dairy, kiwifruit, forestry and seafood.
In fact Iwi/Maori stand to benefit from savings under the TPP on exports across those sectors, estimated to be more than $200 million a year once the tariff commitments are fully phased in.
Despite the noise, we enjoyed a hot and good day at Ratana.
The racing industry has had a positive start to the year with some great racing and successful meetings during the holiday period. Wellington's Trentham racecourse on Saturday was no exception, with a great crowd and some excellent performances by a number of outstanding horses.
The New Year has got off to a good start weather-wise for our region's farmers - though perhaps not quite so positively from a price perspective with lamb and dairy both struggling.
Beef and timber are looking positive and the apple and kiwifruit industries are doing particularly well this season.
It is reassuring to note that the effects of the El Nino weather pattern have not been as bad as predicted with Hawke's Bay and Poverty Bay both enjoying great seasons. Taihape is also looking to be having one of its best summer for some years.
I'm looking forward to spending some time in Taumarunui in the coming days.