Act leader Rodney Hide has sent a message to the National Party, saying it could lose power if it fails to give him an easy ride in the Epsom electorate next year.

Mr Hide spoke in Wellington yesterday at the first Act Party regional conference since David Garrett resigned following revelations he had used a dead baby's identity to get a false passport when he was in his 20s.

Mr Hide did not refer to that episode or the demotion in the weeks before it of Heather Roy as Act's deputy leader. However, Act's troubles have prompted increasing speculation that National could stand a strong candidate against him next year to reclaim the Epsom seat in Auckland.

Mr Hide began his speech by emphasising the importance of his continuation as Epsom MP both to Act itself and to National.

He said if Act had not won Epsom in 2008, it was likely Labour would still be in power or National would be in power "held hostage" by the Maori Party.

"John Key is Prime Minister because of Epsom ... Without Epsom there's no Act. Without Act, Helen Clark would still be Prime Minister."

Mr Hide later said he was simply pointing out Act did have a key role in strengthening the National Government and was explaining the importance of strategic voting.

He also spoke about race relations - saying the Government's handling of the foreshore and seabed issue would lead to "a proliferation of iwi-owned beaches. That's not what New Zealanders want. And [Treaty Negotiations Minister] Chris Finlayson and the National Party have no mandate to deliver it."

Mr Hide claimed there was nothing to prevent iwi with customary title charging for access to beaches and said it would give politicians the power to cut back-room deals with iwi rather than leaving it to the transparency of the courts.

He later denied his speech was an attempt to get a quick lift in support by speaking on race issues, saying Act had consistently had the stance that the foreshore and seabed issue should be left to the courts to resolve.

Despite Act's troubles, much of the conference had a "don't mention the war" feel to it.

President Michael Crozier alluded to the past two months by repeatedly reinforcing the need for unity.