Winston Peters has warned Maori they will be outnumbered by Asians by 2021 - but the statistics say the opposite.

The New Zealand First leader is nevertheless sticking by his claim. He says Statistics New Zealand's projections have previously underestimated how fast the Asian population is growing.

Yesterday, he seized on figures released late last week to claim New Zealand as "the last Asian colony".

"Maori will be disturbed to know that in 17 years' time they will be outnumbered by Asians in New Zealand," his press statement read.

According to the department's figures, the Asian population would increase by 145 per cent, from 270,000 to 670,000, while the Maori and European population was projected to increase by 29 per cent and 5 per cent respectively, it continued.

But the department's website showed that although the numbers quoted were accurate, Mr Peters did not include the projections for the Maori population, which is forecast to number 760,000 in 2021. Therefore, the Maori population will still be 90,000 higher.

Mr Peters is sticking to his guns.

He said that in June 2003, Statistics had projected the Asian population would be 604,000 by 2021.

In just two years, that projection had jumped by 66,000 and he believed the projection would show a similar increase in another two years, dwarfing the Maori population well before 2021.

Secondly, he said the definition of "Maori" the department used was shonky.

Its website says "the ethnic concept used in these projections is the ethnic group or groups that people identify with or feel they belong to. People who identify with more than one ethnicity are included in each ethnic population they identify with".

Mr Peters said for this reason he did not believe the "Maori stat" and doubted few other Maori did.

He said immigrants placed a burden on the population and "where do you think people who are striving for equality are going to fit in? I'm just trying to put it into perspective where the Maori people are concerned".