As thousands gathered under the blazing sun at the Rātana celebrations today, staff from across Central District were again on hand to provide a supportive presence.
The two-day police operation involved 32 staff with the command hub based at the local fire station. Staff from Public Safety teams, Road Policing, iwi liaison and Māori Pacific and Ethnic Services represented Police, along with members of the Police Executive.
More than 3000 people attended the celebrations this year.
Each year Police staff work alongside Rātana leaders, the Katipa (Rātana Church Wardens), and the Whanganui Māori Wardens to ensure attendees can enjoy the celebrations in a safe and secure environment.
Inspector Cliff Brown, Central District Māori Responsiveness Manager and Operation Manager, says the celebrations are a significant annual event and over time Police have worked with the community to build an enduring partnership.
“Police have established a very close working relationship with Rātana Church leaders and local iwi over recent years to support the celebrations,” says Cliff.
“Ensuring ongoing trust and confidence in Police is an integral component of this operation, and the celebrations provide a unique opportunity for Police to engage with a wide cross-section of the Māori community, especially our rangatahi.
“The safety of the community and attendees is our main focus, partnered with positive engagement and korero.”
The operation encompasses all aspects of the celebrations, from road safety to the security of the community and all attendees. The district’s Mobile Community Hub made its Rātana debut and provided an invaluable resource for Police activities including recruitment.
“The Mobile Police Base is a fantastic resource and another tool we can use to up our readiness for events,” says Cliff. “The photo booth and colouring-in pads were very popular among the tamariki and rangatahi.”
As well as the Rātana faithful, iwi leaders, Prime Minister Jacinda Arden and other Government officials attended this year.
More than 100 years ago the church’s founder, Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana, had his divine revelation and, since then, people have come from all over New Zealand to celebrate the anniversary - and the founder’s birthday.
“It’s a real privilege for police to be able to come and support the Ratana church during their celebrations,” says Cliff. “We recognise the importance of this nationally significant event for Māoridom and it gives our staff an opportunity to see the beauty of our people, culture and language.”
Attending in uniform for the first time this year was Whanganui Constable Anna Reti.
“For me, especially being Morehu [Rātana follower], it’s about instilling trust and confidence and helping strengthen community relations,” says Anna.
“We have had people come and say it’s good to see you here out and about and engaging with our tamariki and rangatahi.”