A spokeswoman for political lobby group Hobson's Pledge believes supporters may have put off attending the Rotorua meeting by the threat of protesters.

The meeting was held on Monday night, headed by former National Party leader Don Brash, and was the scene of large-scale arguments during question time.

Hobson's Pledge spokeswoman Casey Costello said other meetings around the country had drawn bigger audiences.

"I don't know whether the belief that protesters were going to be there put people off.


"Initially it was really good. It just got to the point where people just wanted to make statements.

"It made it hard for people to ask questions."

People do not understand what the group stands for, Ms Costello said.

"What was promoted was that we were anti Maori getting anything.

"What we're saying is ancestry shouldn't be the defining criteria, it should be need."

Mike McVicker, a former Rotorua district councillor, is on the committee of the group that wants to "arrest a decline into irreversible separatism" by abolishing all laws, regulations and policies that provide for any entitlement based on ancestry or ethnicity.

The crowd at Hennessy's Irish Bar stayed quiet for speeches by Mr Brash and Ms Costello, but turned the opportunity for questions into a chance to have their say on "race-based policies".

Even the meeting's security guard took the microphone to have his say.


"I think everyone's treated the same," he said.

"This is the island of Maori and it's important to keep the Maori culture alive."

One member of the crowd responded strongly to a suggestion that some treaty settlement cases were trivial.

"Which of these settlements is trivial?" He asked Ms Costello, who said she was referring to cases involving education and imprisonment rather than land settlements.

Just three members of the crowd spoke in favour of ending policies such as Maori seats in Parliament, and were largely drowned out.

The loudest objections from the crowd were to Mr Brash's statements that Maori surrendered their sovereignty by signing the treaty of Waitangi, and did not enter into a partnership.

"There ain't no partnership in the treaty... I'll give you $1000 if you find the word partnership in the treaty."

There were just two protesters outside before the meeting.

Frances Louis said she was protesting because she found it "offensive and insulting" that Hobson's Pledge members would come to Rotorua, which she described as "the core of Maoridom".

Paul Khan, who later spoke at the meeting's question time, said he was protesting for his children and grandchildren.

"What it comes down to is the well-being of my mokos."

Ms Costello, who is of Ngapuhi descent, said policies that gave Maori a hand up were not helpful to Maori.

"More and more handouts is not inspirational, it's de-motivating."

Mr Brash spoke about unity and equality, but when responding to questions suggested Pakeha were treated poorly.

"Non-Maori New Zealanders feel they are being hard done by," he said.

Members left a copy of the pamphlet they sent out to households around the country on each chair.

The pamphlet lists the group's beliefs, which include closing the Waitangi Tribunal and abolishing the Maori seats in Parliament.

Local councillor Trevor Maxwell said he was happy there was little support for the group at their meeting on Monday night.

"I am very pleased. It was their meeting they called and you'd think they would have all their supporters there.

"It shows Rotorua has grown up."