Opponents of the new foreshore legislation appear to have achieved their goal of delaying the bill through time-wasting tactics, including a 15-page amendment naming every marine mammal from the bowhead whale to the dugong and Steller's sea cow.

The Government's hopes of passing the bill through its final reading tomorrow were dim by last night as the legislation's opponents Labour, Act and the Greens grabbed their opportunities to delay it.

A delay of the final reading until next week would give a protest hikoi time to make it to the capital.

Act MP Hillary Calvert's proposed amendments included an attempt to list within the bill every variety of marine mammal, including whales, the narwhal, dolphins, porpoise, seals and dugong. Several other amendments put up by Ms Calvert were ruled out of order for being frivolous.

As well as taking every possibly opportunity for speaking slots, the parties found a further time-wasting device when Hone Harawira began casting his vote in te reo Maori on behalf of his family and ancestors.

Labour also began to employ the technique - before they and Act MP John Boscawen protested that the translator translated only the way Mr Harawira was voting, without his extra comments. The argument escalated until Speaker Lockwood Smith had to be found and returned to the House to decide whether the translator had to simply announce the vote, or translate the entire statement made when an MP cast it.

The Speaker made his ruling - saying if any MP went further than simply casting a vote, their vote would be discounted "because voting is too important to be played around with".

Anyone seeking more intelligent debate outside the actual debating chamber was equally hard pressed to find it.

The name-calling intensified after Ms Calvert said in Parliament that tikanga was an Alice in Wonderland word that meant "whatever the queen - I think it was the red or white queen - said it would mean, no more and no less". She said it effectively left Maori to decide for themselves whether they had upheld their links to the coastline sufficient to claim customary title.

"We might just as well ask iwi for a list of what they want and put through a legal transfer," the Act list member said.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said she had come to expect "ignorant attitudes from the Act Party".

"We are not allowed to call people racists in here, we are not allowed to refer to those matters in the House. But when someone denigrates another culture then for me that's racist."

Yesterday, Attorney-General Chris Finlayson said Ms Calvert's comments were "unfortunate" and went too far.

"Let's have the debate on the issues of principle and not stray into areas that are unfair to our fellow citizens."

Surprisingly, Mr Harawira, who left the Maori Party partly because of his objection to the bill, dismissed Ms Calvert's speech simply as being "unintelligible".