National MP Melissa Lee was called a racist by students amid a raucous Mt Albert by-election debate at the University of Auckland today.

Students at the debate passed a resolution calling Ms Lee a racist, and a struggle broke-out between opposition supporters over a sign with Ms Lee's head on it with the word "racist" scrawled across her forehead.

The meeting was delayed as Auckland University Student's Association (ASUA) president Darcy Peacock announced it wouldn't start until "the stolen property was returned".

The Waterview connection motorway was the subject of the debate which attracted candidates from National, Labour, the Greens, and ACT.

Earlier, campaigner Omar Hamed put forward an Auckland University Students Association resolution to declare Ms Lee a racist.

The resolution was passed by hundred of students with a handful of dissenters.

When Ms Lee took the microphone she was booed down before Mr Peacock appealed to the crowd to let her speak.

She said under Labour, NZ had slipped in OECD rankings but under National the country was improving.

She said her concerns when she left university were how to get a job and pay her mortgage.

Ms Lee described the Waterview connection, which will see some 300 homes demolished, as "pragmatic".

She said public transport was important but only part of the solution.

Asked by students if she regretted her comments made last Wednesday that a motorway would divert criminals from South Auckland, Ms Lee said "you guys are obviously students and do not watch television".

Amid more booing she added, "I did actually say I made a mistake and I was sorry".

Ms Lee said Mt Albert was the important issue.

She asked if the tunnel was so important to Labour, why didn't they fund it and build it while in Government for nine years.

Labour candidate David Shearer said the proposed motorway would "split a community in half".

Green Party co-leader and candidate for Mt Albert Russel Norman said transport authorities had told his party that the motorway would be congested in its first year of opening.

Mr Norman said the motorway was a 1950s style project, whereas money should be spent on public transport, cycling and walkway initiatives.

Act candidate John Boscawen described himself as "the only credible centre right candidate".

He said the motorway should have been built 15 years ago.