National Party leader Simon Bridges returns to marae

The National Party leader Simon Bridges was in the spotlight today at the Ngāti Maniapoto Poukai which was held at his marae in Te Kūiti.

It was his first time being back at his marae, Oparure, in years.

"It's a very humbling, special experience, a real homecoming. I've been here before as a child, as an adult once or twice but not for a few years. So to come back and to have a very warm welcome is a very touching experience," says Bridges.

He was originally set to be received alongside the Māori King, however, he sat with his Ngāti Kinohaku elders as Ngāti Unu, Ngāti Maniapoto cultural consultant Shane Te Ruki guided him through his first Poukai.

"I'm very conscious it's not my day, low-key for me really but it was very important for me to come back for the personal side but also with the mantle that I have as leader of opposition I wanted to pay my respects to the king and here I think it's a nice way to do it at my home marae."

Minister Bridges is the first Māori in history to be elected leader of a major New Zealand political party. His visit to Oparure was not deterred by recent criticism about the authenticity of his Māori heritage.

"That's life in the fast lane, people are allowed their views. I suppose at the end of the day whakapapa is whakapapa and my grandmother Naku Joseph grew up not far from here. These are whānau and talking with a number of them, very close whānau actually. So that's a kōrero people can have but it doesn't really affect me too much or what I know about my whakapapa."

His hapū say they hope to see him more often during his time as leader of the opposition.