John Key has described the protesters who prevented him attending the National Party's Christmas party as "thugs and bullies".

The Prime Minister was unable to attend the annual festivities after anti-poverty activists chained themselves to the gates of the venue in Te Atatu in West Auckland yesterday and blocked his entry.

Appearing on the Paul Henry Show this morning, Mr Key described the group as "a bunch of thugs and bullies" and said he had hoped to thank National Party members for the volunteer work they had done.

Mr Key had been told by his security staff not to attend the party, as his safety could not be assured.

Advertisement

"They say they believe in people's rights but actually they just believe in their own rights," he said. "We don't live in a police state ruled by Sue Bradford."

The former Green Party MP was at the protest representing Auckland Action Against Poverty.

Mr Key pointed out that his government had raised benefits for the first time in 43 years.

"I think people should disregard Sue Bradford, it is a rent-a-protest," he said.

At the protest yesterday, Ms Bradford said poverty was increasing in New Zealand.

"Like every other church and community agency in Auckland, we know that the crisis in poverty, unemployment and housing is getting worse by the day," she said.

"We need a welfare system that works, decent job creation and a government commitment to immediately address the housing crisis."