The Māori Party has labelled new National leader Todd Muller a “racist” while ruling out working with National post-election.
The Māori Party and National were once the best of political friends through a confidence and supply agreement, but those days have gone.
Now Māori Party co-Leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is leading the criticism against the Opposition Leader.
“Muller is showing himself as a racist who has no respect for tāngata whenua needs,” she said.
With Mr Muller still recovering post-surgery to have pre-cancerous moles removed, his deputy came to his defence today.
“No, he is not," Nikki Kaye said. "He is a person who has a deep commitment to Māori."
The big call follows a petition by Mr Muller challenging a local hapū on Mōtītī Island, near Tauranga.
It had won the backing of the courts to put in place a fishing ban in areas around the island to replenish stocks.
The Māori Party says the petition as well as a lack of diversity on National's front bench has formed the party’s latest position.
The party is also pointing to National’s criticism of iwi-led checkpoints during Covid-19.
“National using that as an advantage to crawl division and create disharmony in a racist form was just disgusting,” Ms Ngarewa-Packer said.
Ms Kaye disagreed.
"We do have a diverse caucus and we want to be judged by what we do for Māori.
"We are confident we have the policies that are going to lift educational achievement, lift incomes and ensure that we do the best possible for Māori in New Zealand," she said.
The Māori Party leadership say any deal with National post-election is “untenable”, though ultimately it is up to the party.
“He's come out in a way and absolutely attacking in a way that is real archaic and boring,” Ms Ngarewa-Packer said.