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MP Hone Harawira is blaming racism and "rednecks" for the cancellation of a lecture he was to give at Auckland University last night.

As a threatened protest of up to 170 students against "racial separatism" loomed, the law faculty cancelled the lecture - organised by the Maori Law Students Association - fearing a breach of the peace.

It also cited a policy of not allowing lectures to be used as political platforms.

The lecture, on the foreshore and seabed legislation, was relocated to the university marae, where the protesters were still planning to confront the Mana Party leader last night.

Speaking at a Maori Expo hosted by the Auckland University of Technology yesterday, Mr Harawira blamed "rednecks" for the cancellation.

"All of the rednecks at the university decided to create such a ruckus that the Law School cancelled it. In 2011, we're still being pushed around."

He said divisions were bound to continue unless "we collectively step up and say, 'Hell no, we won't take that shit any longer'."

Afterwards he told journalists that Pakeha "right-wing students" were going to disrupt the lecture.

"I was disappointed but not surprised. A lot of people think racism is dead and buried but clearly it's not. I'm a Maori MP and I should have the right to talk to Maori law students."

Racism was more widespread than many people thought, he said. "I think what's happening at Auckland University is an example of that."

At the marae last night, about 15 protesters turned up waving a New Zealand flag but they arrived after the meeting had started and were ushered away from the marae within minutes.

Commerce student Louis Grainger, 19, who organised the protest, said he was hoping for a peaceful event.

"We want to hear what Mr Harawira has to say, we want to put some questions forward to him but we also want him to know that his gutter politics, racial separatism and divisive behaviour is not acceptable."

But Mr Grainger accepted there might be aggressive elements in the protest.

"I've tried to make it clear as much as I can that this is a peaceful thing. We want to encourage constructive debate, not destructive redneck racism.

"I've been called a member of the Ku Klux Klan. I don't really want to be giving that look."

He said the protest was not affiliated to any political group, but members of the Young Nationals and Act on Campus had shown an interest.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister John Key says the Tai Tokerau byelection, caused by the resignation of Mr Harawira, will be held on June 25.