Key Points:

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has launched a scathing attack on racial separatism, accusing protesters marching against the police terror raids a fortnight ago of supporting apartheid.

He also accused Labour and National of not having the courage to confront separatism.

Mr Peters said the hundreds of people protesting against the arrest of Tuhoe activist Tame Iti were not marching because he was guilty or innocent. That was not yet known.

"They are marching because he is brown," Mr Peters told his party's annual convention in Taupo.

"We once marched against apartheid, now they are marching for it.

"What type of country do we live in when it is not the malcontents with the guns that get turned on by society, but the police?"

Mr Peters said Labour and National tolerated separatism.

"We have been warning them for more than 20 years and yet they still can't accept the blight of separatism - because they do not want to cause offence," he told delegates at the conference.

"They have become indifferent. They have no idea how to handle it."

Mr Peters would not speak to reporters after his speech to explain how the two main parties had encouraged separatism.

But he said his party would fight it wherever it found it.

He said gangs were flourishing because National and Labour lacked the courage to confront separatism.

New Zealand had groups calling for separate nations within a nation, and which were prepared to use guns and violence.

That was the result of behaviour that had been "excused, condoned, nurtured and even encouraged" over the past 20 years.

New Zealanders were sick of being called racists "by those who are clearly the most militant racists in the country".

Militant separatists were also taxpayer-sponsored, "rejecting all our values excepting collecting the dole each fortnight".

In a clear reference to the Maori Party, he wondered why a political party based on race was held up as "the moral compass" for the country.

In a likely taste of some of New Zealand First's election themes next year, Mr Peters' speech touched on asset sales - "no means no" - and immigration.

Migrants to New Zealand, he said, "must understand our values, not expect us to adopt theirs".

And he made a play for the recreational fishing lobby, saying New Zealand First would introduce a "middle tier" of marine reserves that allowed recreational fishing but banned commercial fishing.