Prime Minister John Key had to be shielded by the linked arms of police officers from a group of shouting and shoving protesters when he arrived for a National Party function in Auckland yesterday.

He arrived smiling but showed visible concern at one point as he brushed against sailing boats parked by the wall of the function room at the Royal Akarana Yacht Club in Orakei.

Inside, the noise from people chanting "Stop the War on The Poor," amplified music and protesters banging on wooden rear doors drowned out speeches, until police enforced a 20m buffer zone.

However, the Prime Minister did not leave by the same door as he came in - choosing an exit out of the sight of the body of protesters and driving away in a different car.

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The police presence, reinforced by dog handling and maritime sections, numbered 31 - nearly as many as the protesters from the Auckland Action Against Poverty, led by former Green Party MP Sue Bradford.

At one point, the veteran protester gave police the slip and ran up external stairs to the clubhouse upper floor where she said she was met by police and bundled down the inside stairs, her loudhailer breaking in the struggle. "I was trying to get to talk to the Prime Minister but many police came and stayed with us."

National Party member Steve Clerk said he walked by the side of Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye as she left the function and they had to run a gauntlet of protesters.

Police pulled out one of the protesters, who had earlier revved a car close to the club door and waved a red banner, and took him to Auckland Central Police Station. It's not clear if he was arrested or charged.