TVNZ has caved to pressure and will include the Māori Party in its upcoming minor party election debate.
The state-owned broadcaster initially left the party out of the 1 News multi-party debate because it didn't meet the 3 per cent polling threshold or have its leader in Parliament.
Māori Party co-leader John Tamihere said TVNZ's criteria were wrong "on a number of levels" because mainstream polling didn't reflect Māori seats which could affect who governs and so should be represented in debates.
"They were wrong to use present mainstream polling because these polls do not reflect Māori influence but only Pākehā preference," Tamihere said.
"They were wrong because they treated us the same as Pākehā seats and that we are most
definitely not. They were wrong because we are the tangata whenua and have a right to have our voice heard in the land of our ancestors.
"They were wrong because they are owned by us but governed by their present political masters. They were wrong because Māori voices matter."
Tamihere has earlier called TVNZ's criteria a reflection of "the embedded racism we suffer day in and day out".
Under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act and the New Zealand Human Rights Act, they had a right to freedom of expression by bringing a Māori voice to the political table, he said.
TVNZ said today it accepted its criteria didn't adequately consider parties who are only contending Māori electorate seats and that success in Māori electorate seats affected the make-up of Parliament.
Viewers needed to be aware of parties and politicians who might have a viable path to Parliament by winning these seats, TVNZ said.
Delaying the election by a month until October 17 meant it had more time to consider its criteria, it said.
But the criteria means The Opportunities Party (TOP) is still excluded and its leader Geoff Simmons is fuming.
He said while he welcomed the fact the Māori Party was included, he felt TOP should be too and TVNZ was "stifling" voters' choices.
Simmons took particular issue with Advance NZ co-leader Jami-Lee Ross being included because he is a current MP.
"TOP received more than twice the number of votes of the Māori Party in the 2017 general election and while it's great to see them feature in TVNZ's and Newshub's election debates, we feel that it is only fair that, based on votes achieved in 2017, that TOP is there too," said Simmons.
"What is of far greater concern is that under TVNZ's arbitrary criteria, disgraced former National Party member and sitting MP for Botany, Jami-Lee Ross, is included.
"Jami-Lee Ross, under investigation for sexual abuse claims, and leader of a party that believes in conspiracy theories, will get more airtime than credible smaller parties, just because he is an MP. That's nuts, and not in the best interests of the country."
Simmons said TVNZ and Newshub should follow the Electoral Commission's example and class TOP and the Māori Party in the same category.
The 1 News multi-party debate will be held on October 8 and will be moderated by its political editor, Jessica Mutch McKay.
The parties that currently qualify under the criteria and which are invited to 1 NEWS' multi-party debate are Labour, National, NZ First, The Green Party, Act, Advance New Zealand and now the Māori Party.
The multi-party debate criteria for inclusion are:
• The leaders of registered parties currently represented in Parliament.
• The leaders of registered parties not represented in Parliament that score 3 per cent in at least one 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll in the six months before the debate.
• The leaders of registered parties where the leader has been an MP, or party has been represented, in either/both of the past two Parliaments.