Key Points:

New Zealand First says it will not welcome immigrants if they come from societies with a "class system" or where women are treated as subservient to men.

Deputy leader Peter Brown, an immigrant from England, told a crowd of mainly refugees and immigrants at a political debate in Mt Albert yesterday that New Zealand was an "egalitarian society" and those who could not integrate were not welcome.

In this country "Jack is as good as his master, and Jack's wife is as good as Jack", he said and suggested that under New Zealand First's immigration policy, those who could not accept this would not be wanted.

Mr Brown was speaking to a crowd who packed the Mt Albert War Memorial Hall yesterday to listen to eight political parties debate immigration and say how their party would support migrants and refugees.

Many in the crowd were seen shaking their heads with disapproval at Mr Brown's suggestions, with some - such as refugee Mohd Faisel Daud - leaving the hall.

Mr Daud said: "I still don't know who I will vote for, but after listening to Mr Brown, at least I know who I will not be voting for."

This year Mr Brown has also suggested shutting the door on Asian immigrants, saying there was a danger Asian "mini-societies" were being built in New Zealand.

As a Muslim, Mr Mohd says the New Zealand First suggestion is "ridiculous" because it is in the Koran that "women must live differently to men".

Meanwhile, representatives from Labour and National - who were both immigrants - told personal stories and drew on their own life experiences in their attempts to win over the voters. Labour's Dr Rajen Prasad, an immigrant from Fiji, said he could identify with immigrants' struggles to carve a new life here because he was once in the same boat.

If Labour was re-elected, Dr Prasad, who is standing as a list candidate, promised immigrant voters that he would be the one to be "bringing your stories and your frustrations" to Parliament, and said he would push for a review of the settlement programme to make it "the best in the world".

National's Pansy Wong said both herself and leader John Key had been in positions to help them "fully understand" immigrants and the poor.

"John Key's mother was a migrant and a single mum, and he grew up in a state house ... John understands poverty."

Mrs Wong also said that while growing up in Hong Kong, she had to share a room with her mother and two brothers where they used a common toilet and kitchen space shared with seven others.

She said that in ruling out coalition with New Zealand First, National has made "Asian bashing unfashionable" this election.

Also at the debate, which was organised by Ethnic Voice NZ, were Matt Robson (Progressives), Ashok (United Future) and Bernie Ogilvy (Kiwi Party).