Winston Peters' description of Maori Party policies as akin to apartheid has been roundly condemned by the party's leaders, the Greens and Labour.
Mr Peters, speaking at Ratana Pa, says his party would never support "separatist" Maori Party policies such as having separate Maori units in prison, the separate Maori social welfare system Whanau Ora and the Tino Rangatiratanga Flag.
Mr Peters says he could not work with the Maori Party as long as it keeps "separatist" policies.
"You can't have a Crown that's composed of two different groups - the rest and Maori. Either we're all together or we're all going to be separate," he says.
"What Maori need is housing, decent healthcare, decent education system and first world jobs and wages," Mr Peters says.
"The Maori Party has abandoned that for sociological objectives which are of no interest to Maoridom at all.
"Apartheid policies are based on racial preference. This is, too."
Maori Affairs Minister and former Maori Party co-leader, Pita Sharples, says Mr Peters is "dumb".
"How can he say that about a alternative prison that is run by the community and is totally based on rehabilitation," Dr Sharples says.
Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell says what Mr Peters has to say on such issues is pretty much irrelevant today.
He says Mr Peters in the past has supported Maori seats in Parliament and has then believed they're racist and should be taken out.
"I don't stand too much on what Mr Peters has to say with respect of those issues," he says.
Mr Flavell says the Maori Party has worked with National over the last five years with Whanau Ora as a major plank for the party, and it will continue to be.
Asked if he could work in a government with Mr Peters, Mr Flavell says that hasn't been a possibility in the past.
"It might be in the future, We'll have to toss that up when we come to it. Our people will give us a lead."
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says Mr Peters' description of Maori Party policies as akin to apartheid is silly, especially so close to the death of Nelson Mandela.
Ms Turei says the Greens have worked with Mr Peters on things like the manufacturing inquiry.
But she says they don't agree with him on everything and policies like Whanau Ora and Maori units in prisons are not apartheid.
"And I think that's a silly way to describe it, especially so close to the death of Nelson Mandela when we know real apartheid existed in South Africa at that time," she said.
"So let's dispense with the dramatic language and deal with the issues."
"For Maori it's about the basics - decent housing, decent education, decent jobs that pay a living wage. Winston Peters supports those issues.
"And then we need to make sure that on constitutional issues Maori have a say at the table."
Ms Turei says she's fully in favour of Whanau Ora and agrees that we need to make sure our prisons, "if we have to have them", are responsive to Maori needs.
Cunliffe disagrees too
Labour leader David Cunliffe has also distanced himself from Mr Peters' apartheid reference.
"That's certainly not a word I would use. And I would disagree with the spirit of that," he told reporters at Ratana.
"I think allowing self expression by Maori is respectful of the Treaty partnership. And I'd certainly listen to the voices of Maoridom as to how they want to take that forward."
Mr Cunliffe says Labour supports the concept of Whanau Ora, but would not keep the policy going as it is.
"It's not just something we would limit to Maori. It's a walk that we want to walk with community services agencies and NGOs around the country," he says.
"We can both lower costs and improve effectiveness by doing that."
Prime Minister John Key made it clear earlier this week that he will work with Winston Peters only as a last resort.
"There'll be lots of political statements made over the course of this year, lots of people rattling the cage to try and interest voters," Mr Key says.