Key Points:

National's first Pacific Island MP has called the party "rednecks" over immigration spokesman Lockwood Smith's comments that Pacific workers need to be taught to use toilets and showers.

Arthur Anae, who is Samoan but was born in Fiji, said it was a ploy by Dr Smith to win votes from the "white community".

"It's bloody insulting that he said that. Some people have been here over 60 years. How dare he say that? Now people understand why I am no longer part of that party. It's a clear indication of what the underbelly is over there towards Pacific people.

"You do have an element of redneck that's in there and that surfaces when you read between the lines. I feel sorry for John Key and Bill English, who I believe firmly do believe in the Pacific community.

"This is what happens when people want power, they become immigration spokesman so they want to hit the lowest they can with what they say to win some votes from the white community, shall I put it that way. That sucks."

Dr Smith was campaigning in Blenheim on Tuesday and said employers were having to teach Pacific Islanders to shower and use a toilet. He was talking about expanding the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme, which allows Pacific people to do fruit picking work, to include workers from Asia. He also said Asians had smaller hands which were better to pick fruit with.

Dr Smith said yesterday his remarks were taken out of context but apologised.

Mr Anae, a Manukau City councillor, said National's attitude towards Pacific Islanders was part of the reason he left the party.

In the 2002 election he was ranked low on the party list and was not returned to Parliament. The ranking was criticised at the time by Pacific Island groups, who said National was ignoring the Pacific community.

Mr Anae said: "My Pacific community always said to me when I was there, 'We don't trust them at all and everything they say and what they do'."

He called on the National Party to sack Dr Smith.

"You can't put a person like that with that thinking in any portfolio responsibility.

"On the basis of that statement I will say to my Pacific communities out there, 'Don't waste one vote on these people'."

National leader John Key said Dr Smith's comments could be seen as offensive and it was appropriate to apologise.

Galumalemana Alfred Hunkin, programme director for Samoan studies at Victoria University, told Radio New Zealand that Dr Smith's comments did not help race relations.

A Samoan-born National Party list candidate, Auckland City councillor Peseta Sam Lotu-liga, distanced himself from the furore.

"I can't get into it. I'm not going to add anything to what's already been said. Our leader, John Key, said what the party stands for so I leave it at that."

- NZPA