Maori leaders have reacted with shock after National Party leader Don Brash questioned whether Maori remained a distinct indigenous group because few if any full-blooded ones remained.
Dr Brash was responding to a speech by High Court judge David Baragwanath last month in which he raised the possibility that Maori might need separate legal treatment and highlighted the lack of Maori lawyers.
"The judge's comments put him at odds with my view of the way New Zealand should proceed," said Dr Brash. "He continues to talk as if the Maori remain a distinct indigenous people.
"There are clearly many New Zealanders who do see themselves as distinctly and distinctively Maori - but it is also clear there are few, if any, fully Maori left here.
"There has been a lot of intermarriage and that has been welcome."
Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said Dr Brash's comments were offensive and showed complete ignorance about what it was to be Maori.
"Culture is not about the amount of blood you have, it is about beliefs, philosophy, customs and aspirations."
He said the comments put a further wedge between his party and National.
"He is so stupid. It reflects Dr Brash's lack of knowledge of things Maori in this country."
National Urban Maori Authority chairman Willie Jackson labelled Dr Brash's comments silly. He said whakapapa was what determined being Maori, the ability to link genealogically to a Maori ancestor.
Mr Jackson said Maori, irrespective of diluted bloodlines, continued to feature in almost every negative social statistic - a situation that could be resolved only through targeting Government assistance.
He also called for consistency in determining whether people were identified as Maori or not.
It often happened that "irrespective of the amount of Maori blood in a person, if they are identified for the wrong reason, be it as criminals, then they are labelled as Maori".