Labour Party leader Phil Goff faces discontent within his party over his controversial nationhood speech.

Labour's president, Andrew Little, revealed yesterday that he has "personal concerns" about the speech.

Mr Little told the Herald the speech had received a "mixed response" from the party's rank-and-file.

Mr Goff's address portrayed National as pandering to Maori and re-opened the political warfare over the foreshore and seabed law, leading to accusations that he was playing the race card.

It has left some in the party uncomfortable and Mr Goff is expected to have to explain it to some MPs at this week's caucus meeting.

Last night, Mr Little refused to specify his concerns, saying, "That's an issue for me and Phil", but indicated there were issues about how it had been received by Maori.

"The party has got to be conscious of its Maori membership and its appeal to the Maori constituency generally."

Mr Little said the speech had been discussed with Mr Goff at length at Labour's national council meeting.

The president relayed his concerns, which he said were both his personally and those of people in the party.

"The extent to which I've got concerns is an issue for me and Phil, and no doubt the party and Phil and I wouldn't air those publicly."

He said Mr Goff was "appreciative" of the concerns being raised and offered explanations.

A spokesman for Mr Goff said last night that he "absolutely stands by everything he said in the speech".

It had raised important issues such as National's "shabby" deal with the Maori Party to get the Emissions Trading Scheme through. Mr Goff also had grave concerns about National "playing politics" with the foreshore and seabed legislation.

The spokesman said Mr Goff was expecting a discussion about the speech at caucus.

Mr Little said the speech was just "one speech of many that he [Mr Goff] will give between now and 2011".

He said Labour's rebuilding of trust and confidence with Maori was going to be built on more than just the foreshore and seabed and the ETS.

Mr Little did not see Mr Goff's speech before it was delivered to a Grey Power meeting in Palmerston North but was briefed on its content.

Mr Goff showed his speech notes to some MPs but not all.

Mr Little told the party conference in September that Labour had been wrong to deprive Maori of the right to test their claims in court when passing the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

The legislation will now be repealed as part of the governing agreement between National and the Maori Party, and Labour offered earlier in the year to work with National to achieve an "enduring consensus".

But Mr Goff's speech effectively changed Labour's position on the law, saying it was working well the way it was now and repeal would make "wounds fester".

Mr Little said he interpreted Mr Goff's speech as raising the legitimate question of what National and the Maori Party were going to replace the Foreshore and Seabed Act with given their dealings over the ETS.