Prime Minister John Key says it is "ridiculous" that MP Hone Harawira would not be happy about his children dating Pakeha.

Mr Harawira made the comment in a Weekend Herald profile about his political comeback since his notorious email referring to "white motherf*****s."

Asked how he would feel if one of his seven children came home with a Pakeha, he replied: "I wouldn't feel comfortable. Like all Pakehas would be happy with their daughter coming home with a Maori boy - and the answer is they wouldn't."

Mr Harawira said he did not have an issue with his family dating Pacific Islanders, and acknowledged that the difference in attitude probably indicated prejudice - "But how many people don't have prejudices?"

Mr Key said he found Mr Harawira's views ridiculous.

"It depends on you as an individual but I wouldn't care what ethnicity my kids dated as long as they are happy."

Asked if he would be happy for his children to date Mr Harawira's, he quipped: "I guess it would make the wedding an interesting thing, wouldn't it. But as long as they were happy, yep."

Mr Key said he had met one of Mr Harawira's daughters at an art college in Gisborne.

"She seemed a really nice girl, so yes, if Max wants to date her, she's a bit older than him, though."

Stephie Key is 17 and Max is 15.

Maori academic Margaret Mutu said that although Mr Harawira's comments were a shame, they were true.

"That mindset is still strong among many Maori. They still feel a lot of hate, distrust and there's still a lot of hurt among Maori, by what the Pakeha did to us. The theft of all our land ... we've got a really raw deal in this country and a lot of Maori are very hurt about that."

Professor Mutu said it was important that Mr Harawira's comments were taken in context.

Her first husband was Pakeha and her mother is English and Scottish.

But she defended the mindset of those Maori who continued to feel prejudice against Pakeha.

"They know that when these [Pakeha] kids come in, they bring Pakeha attitudes. And not all Pakeha are bad - you'll always hear about a lovely Pakeha daughter-in-law.

"But when they first come in, [the Maori family] are suspicious - and those suspicions are grounded."

Maori Party leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples yesterday refused to discuss the comments, though they are likely to talk about the article at today's caucus meeting.

In the article Mr Harawira, the MP for Te Tai Tokerau, also criticised the Maori Party's handling of the email affair and said he had been close to leaving the party.

He did not respond to follow-up questions yesterday.

Family focus on the inside

For mixed-race couple Zak and Stefani Lassey, skin colour or cultural background was never an issue when looking for the perfect partner.

"Socially it's never been an issue - absolutely not," Mr Lassey says.

"I never looked at her like: 'Oh yeah, she's Croatian'. I wanted somebody who would change me, who would influence me, be good to me and somebody who would challenge me - it was never about her race."

The couple, who live in Mt Maunganui, have three children: Rokko, 8, Olivia, 4, and Tia, 5. Mr Lassey is a Maori from Whakatane, and his wife of 12 years regards herself as a New Zealander from Croatia.

Mrs Lassey said comments such as those made by MP Hone Harawira this week were simply ignorant.

"I just think that people need to learn and care about how people are on the inside rather than the outside."

Mr Lassey felt Mr Harawira's comments were a reflection of how shallow many were in Kiwi society.

Street Poll

We asked people on Auckland's Queen St whether they would accept their child coming home with a partner of a different race.

Vanessa Gwilliam, 34:

"I don't have anything against Maori or dark-coloured people. As long as my child is treated right.

"Love - isn't that what you'd want most for your child? Not looking at a person's ethnicity."

Ashlyn Fernandes, 54:

"I don't have any issues with mixed relationships. We come from a different background where we have a more religious view. It's irrespective whether my daughter brings home a person from a different race. If a guy is straight up and loves my daughter, then he's welcome."

Brendan Graham, 27:

"You walk down Queen St and you see what's it's like, it's a multicultural society. It's normal now.

"I think [Mr Harawira's] just from a different generation, so has a different mindset. As long as my children were happy - with whoever - it would be fine."

Pauline Thompson, 42:

"Yes, I would be fine with that. I think that's probably just Hone trying to get into the press with those comments.

"Saying that, I think you might get a few who agree with that, if you were interviewing people in other areas of the country.

Christopher West, 18:

"Yeah, I think mixed relationships are okay. It's the world now, it's changing - everyone needs to mix and mingle.

"My mum's not okay with me going out with any girls right now though, school first. But when I have kids, that's going to be okay."

Heidi Van Rooyen, 35:

"I can't believe that there are still people - now, in 2010 - who have this mindset. I have a lot of nieces and nephews and I would think that was fine, nothing wrong with that.

"But it also shows that those thoughts are out there and those kind of racist mindsets."