A member of the anti-poison protest group accused of smearing poison on Nelson MP Nick Smith says a rogue faction could have done it, and the group has condemned the behaviour.
Dr Smith has laid a complaint with police after he had what he said was rat poison rubbed into his clothes and face, and threats were made against his family, during his regular public meetings from a caravan parked next to the Nelson Market.
One of two volunteers who witnessed the incident said in all her years, she had not experienced a moment as frightening as what happened on Saturday.
Jenny Sauer is one of Dr Smith's regular helpers at the market.
"We were closing up for the day and these people came up to see Nick, and this lady had her phone out... she was filming Nick with her iPhone, and then out of nowhere they lobbed some material into the caravan and it hit me on my chest, and I realised looking down it was bait - like rat poison."
Nelson's long-serving MP has always run an open-door policy for constituents. He said he was used to getting a bit of lip and he was generally tolerant, but what happened on Saturday went too far.
Ms Sauer said it was when Dr Smith came out of the caravan to try and calm the situation that he had a pellet rubbed on the lapel of his shirt and on his skin.
An anti-poison bait drop group is disputing it was involved, while claims have also been made that Dr Smith was never touched in the weekend incident.
A second volunteer said that was simply not true.
Jonathan Subritzky said he has told the police that a woman lurched towards Dr Smith and then smeared what appeared to be rat poison on him.
"When they started shouting, and started pelting us with rat poison I kind of realised it was getting a bit out of hand. Nick told us to call the police and yeah... it was quite intimidating."
Dr Smith said the attack was linked to the contentious argument about a poison drop under way in a Nelson wildlife sanctuary. He said he was taken aback at how verbal abuse escalated into what amounted to being assaulted, and then his family being threatened.
The Brook Valley Community Group challenged the operation that was allowed under new national regulations for pest control. The High Court and the Court of Appeal agreed the aerial drop was lawful, and it began in the Brook Sanctuary on the city outskirts on Saturday.
A member of the group, Anne Fitzsimon, said it was possible someone had acted alone while claiming to be part of the group. She said the anti-poison bait drop group was not involved.
"I know from correspondence and from things at meetings, there has been some extreme behaviour that was nothing to do with the group - the group has condemned that," Ms Fitzsimon said.
She said the group does not support what amounts to vigilante behaviour.
Dr Smith said the couple involved were not known to him. Ms Sauer said it was an upsetting end to the day.
"It was very frightening. We're just there as volunteers and we'd had a good morning, but it was just the unprovoked way they came tearing up and just started lobbing these pellets."
The police said no one has been charged in relation to the incident, but inquiries are continuing.