Maori wardens say they will not be dragging Maori out of bars during the Rugby World Cup even though an "archaic" act allows them to do so.
The statement comes after reports that Wellington bar owners were angry at wardens in the Courtenay Place entertainment precinct after a recent All Blacks-South Africa rugby test.
Senior Auckland warden Junette Rielly said the Maori Community Development Act 1962 had not kept pace with how the volunteer force operated today.
The law says wardens can remove a Maori from a bar or tell bar staff to stop serving a Maori alcohol.
Mrs Rielly is heading a "small army" of 40 in Auckland who will work two shifts covering 16 hours on game days patrolling fanzones at the Cloud, Viaduct and Wynyard Quarter.
She said she wouldn't be wasting her time enforcing the rarely used power to stop Maori drinking.
"It's archaic. I couldn't imagine doing that in this day and age. It'll be too dangerous. Drunk people are over the top at any rate. In Auckland City, we can't do it because there's just too many bars."
Mrs Rielly said Maori wardens were non-confrontational and would focus on making sure young people had a safe time during the cup, which could mean offering rides home, assisting those in trouble and providing a reassuring public presence.
She said she wanted to see Parliament's Maori affairs select committee overhaul the act because it focused too heavily on alcohol without recognising wardens' work in courts, at large-scale public events and on welfare issues.
A statement from police national headquarters said the powers had not formed any part of the force's Rugby World Cup planning.
Superintendent Wally Haumaha has overseen police/warden engagement since 2007.
"I've heard no stories of targeted racism. I think we can dispel this notion that wardens are dragging people out - that ain't the case.
"Let's be honest. Wardens don't get in people's faces. They've had huge success in terms of providing reassurance and the work they're doing ... is bloody extraordinary and highly regarded."
Prime Minister John Key said the removal provisions felt racist.
"It seems to be a very antiquated law that's there ... At the end of the day, if someone's removed from a bar it should be because they're underage or they're intoxicated. Ethnicity's got nothing to do with it."
THE OLD WAYS
The law allows Maori wardens to:
* Tell bar staff to stop supplying "quarrelsome" or "disorderly" Maori.
* Order Maori to leave a hotel.
* Take their car keys.