A right-wing political commentator says National's campaign against "racist separation" won't do it any favours in the polls.
Party leader Judith Collins doubled down on her opposition to a proposed Māori Health Authority in a speech to party members in Auckland yesterday.
She said the government is trying to set up separate education, justice and resource management systems "by stealth" - as well as a separate Māori Parliament.
Former National government press secretary Ben Thomas said Collins' strategy shows her leadership is clearly under pressure.
Whether there is an imminent threat to her leadership or not, it is clear that she feels under intense pressure about her performance and leadership.
"It looks as if she is casting around for any kind of temporary sugar hit she can get in terms of a brief bump in the polls to take that pressure off," Thomas said.
Collins' current strategy was not one which would win her an election, he said
"The racist separation card is always tempting for oppositions to play. Since Don Brash in Orewa ... there has been this idea you can magically pull yourself up in the polls by talking about one-rule-for-all and racial equality.
"In fact, that's not a strategy which wins elections," Thomas said.
Anti-Māori sentiment deplored
Meanwhile, Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said Collins' comments were "absolutely pathetic and shameful".
"It for no other reason than to play into the hands of the anti-Māori, the racist, hateful frenzy we are tending with as tangata whenua.
"We are merely saying we have a solution, the [Waitangi] Tribunal has recognised it and it's moving us a millimetre towards a different balance," Ngarewa-Packer said.
She said Collins was trying to whip-up anti-Māori sentiment.
"We are expendable and that's the biggest tragedy of this. She's not focused on Māori, she doesn't give a hoot about Māori, what she's focused on is putting Labour down and creating division.
"That's her role as opposition, but not at the cost of tangata whenua, and not at the cost of the indigenous peoples of Aotearoa who are truly hurting."