Brown has rubbished claims the face-sl' />

A split has emerged within Manukau Mayor Len Brown's campaign team over his controversial "Maori gesture".

Brown has rubbished claims the face-slapping move was a Maori gesture, blaming his media adviser for the "line".

That adviser, David Lewis, was previously chief press secretary to former Prime Minister Helen Clark. He had used the phrase kanohi-te-kanohi to explain his new boss' behaviour in front of the TV cameras.

But Brown has dismissed the explanation. "That was absolute nonsense, it had nothing to do with Maori at all," he said.

"That term was a line from my media guy David Lewis so it was, like, the perfect storm and so everyone jumps into that."

Brown said he was trying to say, "Good times and bad, face up to the people and it is face to face."

Brown made the head and chest-beating gesture during an emotional speech to the Manukau City Council while under intense scrutiny for his credit-card spending.

Lewis later explained the gesture to media using the Maori term kanohi-te-kanohi, an invitation to people to tackle him face-to-face, an explanation rubbished by some Maori commentators.

Lewis said yesterday he had never claimed Brown was making a Maori gesture, only that he was inviting people to deal with him face-to-face, for which there was a Maori phrase.

"Len had made a gesture which people said was slapping his head and face. What he was doing was touching his nose with his hand," Lewis said.

He said Brown was showing that he was prepared to get out in the community and discuss matters face-to-face.

"I said there's a Maori phrase for that, kanohi te kanohi. Nowhere did I say he used a Maori gesture."

Brown said his reaction after watching the incident on tape was that it wasn't an unusual speech. "I knew what was in my heart and what I was trying to express." He said he was a demonstrative speaker.

"I really give it up - when I am in full flight, look out - but that's what makes me tick, that's what generates energy in the place."