Former National leader Don Brash attacked Maori in a provocative speech to party faithful at Orewa last night - returning to the issues that propelled him to the leadership six years ago.

Titled Return to Orewa, Brash said Maori have no special rights and there was no grounds for a separate Maori political party.

He also attacked National's economic performance and criticised what he said was high spending, over-regulation and a refusal to back down on a number of Labour-led policies.

Political scientist Bryce Edwards said the speech was remarkable and an attack on Prime Minister John Key. It represented a split between the National moderates and radicals.

Brash said Maori were capable of being elected on their own merits. There was "absolutely no case" for treating Maori people differently.

"The whole concept of a racially based political party would be seen as grossly inappropriate if wanted by any other race than Maori," he said. "What would be the reaction if a group of New Zealanders of European background decided to set up a 'European New Zealanders' Party'?

"There would be outcry, and rightly so."

Brash said general legislation, such as the Resource Management Act, which requires local councils to consult their communities and Maori separately, should be "insulting" and "patronising" to Maori people.

"The Maori electorates were established for a five-year period in 1867. There is no logic for them at all 143 years later."

In 2004, Brash kicked off the political year with a state-of-the-nation speech that attacked "race-based" policies.

The speech prompted a surge in the polls for the National Party and also played a large part in igniting a wider profile for Brash, who had recently become leader.

The following year, Brash delivered his second address at Orewa, which attacked the welfare system, saying it was having a "devastating" effect on Maori, who had become largely dependent on it.

This speech failed to garner the same publicity as the first. In 2006 Brash resigned from Parliament.

He said at the time that a book by researcher Nicky Hager, titled The Hollow Men, did not factor into his reasons for resigning.

The book detailed his links with the Exclusive Brethren and claimed his Orewa speech was partially written by former Labour Party member, Michael Bassett, to fuel a race debate.