A Tauranga Maori leader has labelled a new lobby group set up by former National Party leader Don Brash as "racist".
The lobby group, named Hobson's Pledge, aimed to ''arrest a decline in irreversible separatism'' in New Zealand and aims to scrap Maori electorate seats and water rights, according to the group's website.
Dr Brash, who denies any political agenda and refutes claims the group is racist, said he was concerned at a recent increase in Maori seats in local body politics.
''I have no interest in getting back into politics at all, that's not on the agenda at all. This country is in serious danger if we go down this track,'' he said.
Dr Brash did not believe the relevance of tangata whenua had any bearing on the need for Maori seats.
"What does tangata whenua even mean? People of the land? So what.''
Bay of Plenty Regional Councillor Awanui Black, who represents Mauao Maori on the council, said in his opinion the group was "racist" and said such seats were important to maintain a diversity in politics.
''Often for minorities in politics it's difficult to get your voice heard because there aren't enough people to vote in their members in a general sense because we always get out voted.''
Mr Black said Maori were over-represented in negative statistics.
''If we are talking about equality, perhaps Don Brash could even up the prison population and the poor in our society?
''We are working with homeless at the moment in Tauranga. Let's make that even too? If we are talking about race privilege, is it a privilege to be in prison? Is it a privilege to be poor? To be homeless? If you want equality, it has to be across the board.
''That's why Maori representation is important because what we need is we need to even up the scale and stop that stuff. You can't do that if you don't have a voice.''
Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell said in his opinion the campaign was the latest "race card" trick by Dr Brash and a timely reminder of how important it was to have better education about the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi), nationhood and its place now and in the future for all New Zealanders.
''... this group's main aim is to plunder the raw nerve that sits idly among some of our fellow citizens about a perceived bias in favour of Maori.''
''I urge Don and his supporters to take a leaf out of our new Governor General's book. If our Head of State has no difficulty understanding that the Treaty is a partnership between the Crown and Maori, and she herself has committed to respecting and honouring the unique partnership, as enshrined in our founding document, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, then I can't see why it should be different for anyone else.''
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said he agreed with the sentiment of Hobson's Pledge but "I think where we differ though is in terms of the practical aspects of what they're arguing''.
''We have a legal and moral obligation based on history and the Treaty of Waitangi. We want to respect those historic and legal rights of iwi.''
Western Bay of Plenty councillor Margaret Murray-Benge, who is in a relationship with Dr Brash, said she did not want to ''destroy democracy on the pretext that we are doing anyone a favour''.
''If this does not stop, the Government will have successfully established an apartheid country. That is not what I want for my country.''
What is Hobson's Pledge?
Hobson's Pledge is a lobby group named after Governor Hobson, who represented Queen Victoria on the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in February 1840. Hobson greeted each Chief who came forward to sign the treaty with the following pledge: "he iwi tahi tatou" - "we are now one people".
For more articles from this region, go to Bay of Plenty Times