The Maori Party will go to Parliament seeking a Government apology for the exclusion of Maori players from the All Black tours to Apartheid era South Africa.

Maori Affairs Minister and Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said he would be raising the issue with Parliament.

"It would be good to heal past hurts and allow former players and their families to move on, and the Maori Party thinks a Government apology might help," Dr Sharples said.

"To have real meaning, an apology must genuinely come from the heart. I am starting to sound out some of my colleagues in Parliament about what they think," he said.

A spokeswoman from the Prime Minister's office said John Key has now been approached by the Maori Party about an apology.

When asked about his response, she referred nzherald.co.nz to a written question from Green Party MP Keith Locke who asked Mr Key last month if the Government would offer an apology on behalf of the Government.

Mr Key replied: "No. This was a matter between the rugby unions."

Former All Black Vern Winitana has criticised the New Zealand Government for not following South Africa in issuing a state apology.

He told nzherald.co.nz last week that the Government had been a willing participant in rugby's racist policies and had failed to protect New Zealanders' rights.

Questions have also been raised about the apology from the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU).

Letters released to the Herald under the Official information Act reveal that the NZRU had been reluctant to criticise past administrations for excluding Maori from the All Blacks as it believed they had sometimes been acting "to protect the interests of Maori".

Private emails written the week the NZRU apologised to Maori players about racial selection policies during All Blacks tours of South Africa show NZRU chief executive Steve Tew wrote to Sports Minister Murray McCully's office to say: "Our predecessors were sometimes acting to protect the interests of Maori from racial vilification."

Mr Tew said the NZRU had delayed making an apology following advice from the rugby union's Maori Board that it was "not necessary".

"However, we are conscious that a significant number of New Zealanders feel it is right and appropriate for the NZRU to make some gesture of reconciliation," Mr Tew wrote.

The NZRU's apology came five days after the South African Sports Minister offered an apology to Maori.

Emails show the South African rugby union had prepared and sent its own draft apology to the NZRU three days before the NZRU issued its statement.

An NZRU spokesman said its board had discussed making an apology with the South African Rugby Union during the week, and submitted a draft to a meeting the day before the apologies were issued.

The final board decision to issue an apology was made at that meeting, he said.

The correspondence between the NZRU and Government outraged Mr Winitana, who called it "weasel words".

The NZRU's position was "tokenistic, paternalistic and feeble", Mr Winitana said.

He said the NZRU had issued an apology but were not actually taking any responsibility.

"All anyone wants is a sincere apology," Winitana said.

Last month, NZRU Maori Board chairman Wayne Peters told the Herald that apologising simply to help people move on was irresponsible.

NZRU acting chairman Mike Eagle told media earlier this month that the Maori Board was at no stage against the issuing of an apology.

"At no stage were they against it; the timing just wasn't right in their opinion," Mr Eagle said.