Green Party co-leader James Shaw has compared the language of New Zealand First leader Winston Peters to former US president Donald Trump, saying it may be emboldening violence against candidates.
It comes after several candidates from different parties have spoken out about being targeted, including a home invasion on Te Pāti Māori's youngest candidate, an assault on a Labour candidate, and another Labour candidate saying she has faced the "worst comments and vitriol" this campaign.
Te Pāti Māori candidate Hana-Rāwhiti Maipi-Clarke, whose home was ram raided and invaded, put the blame on what she called race baiting from right-wing parties.
Peters told Newshub Nation that notion was wrong, and accused Te Pāti Māori of being a racist party.
But Shaw - who himself was assaulted in 2019 - suggested Peters could be empowering and emboldening extremists.
"It makes me really angry. Because political leaders, through the things we say create an air of permissiveness for that kind of extreme language and now physical violence to take place and it's not too dissimilar to what we saw in the United States under Donald Trump.
"Half of the argument about Trump was whether he personally intervened to make those things happen and at one level it doesn't matter, he created an atmosphere where these extremists felt empowered and emboldened to kind of enact their kind of crazy, racist, misogynist fantasies. And that did lead to physical violence there and it's leading to physical violence here too."
However, Shaw told RNZ he was not surprised given the "misogynist and racist rhetoric", which he said had been at least in part been given permission by political parties in this election campaign.
"[It] has created a situation where that kind of online hate and violent language is only one or two steps from actual acts of physical violence and now you're starting to see those manifest. It is really worrying.
"I think all of us have a responsibility to try and create an atmosphere for democracy to take place, which is respectful, where people can have different opinions and for that to be okay.
"And I think that at the moment we're seeing a rise in this kind of culture or language which is imported from overseas, that is not just unhelpful but downright dangerous."
Te Pāti Māori said the break-in at Maipi-Clarke's house was yet another example of political extremism in New Zealand.
Co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said some right-wing politicians were emboldening racist behaviour and needed to take responsibility.
"We have seen a harmful inciting, a very harmful emboldening of extremism, this is an example of that.
"We've had it with our billboards - they've been so destroyed that we haven't been able to afford to replace a lot of them now. It's just been disgusting, the extent of racism."
This year's election had brought some of the worst abuse Te Pāti Māori had ever experienced, she said.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters claimed of Maipi-Clarke's incident that "it couldn't have been a home invasion" and he would answer more questions about the case when he knew all the facts.
"As for the first one [alleged assault on Labour's Angela Roberts], violence of that sort is just not acceptable, full stop."
He believed the time for candidates was worse was during the Rogernomics period of the 1980s.
"With respect, I can recall during the period of Rogernomics, there was a full scale fight going on inside the Labour Party convention."
Labour Party leader Chris Hipkins - who has vowed to call out racism - said a number of parties were deliberately trying to persecute minorities and it was reprehensible.
Assaulting candidates or threatening their safety "shows total contempt for the very principle of democracy", he said.
He had made it clear to all Labour's candidates that if they thought their physical safety might be at risk, they should not do that activity, Hipkins said.
"I think there has been more racism and misogyny in this election than we've seen in previous elections."
Hipkins said he had respect for women and Māori who put themselves forward in elected office, but they should never have to put up with the level of abuse that they have had to in this campaign.
National Party leader Christopher Luxon told reporters his party had referred several incidents to the police too.
Luxon said he condemned threats and violence on political candidates, or their family and property, as well as all forms of racism.
"It's entirely wrong. We've had a number of serious incidents that we've referred to the police as well, over the course of this campaign.
"I think it's important for all New Zealanders to understand that politicians are putting themselves forward, you may disagree with their politics, you may disagree with their policies, but we can disagree without being disagreeable in this country."
He would not detail the complaints his party had made to police.
He said political leaders had a responsibility not to fearmonger during the campaign.
"Running fearmongering campaigns and negative campaigns just amps it up, and I think actually what we need to do is actually everyone needs to respect each other. We have differences of opinion about how to take the country forward, we are unique in New Zealand in that we can maintain our political civility, we don't need to go down the pathway we've seen in other countries.
"It's just about leadership, right, it's about a leader modelling out the behaviour and treating people that they expect to treated."
Asked if National had a hand in being responsible for fearmongering, he said it did not, and their campaign was positive and focused on what mattered most to New Zealanders.
Shaw was worried for his candidates, having seen the online abuse they were subjected to.
"It's vile, it is really extreme and it is stronger now than it has been in previous election campaigns and like I said I don't think it takes much for a particularly unhinged individual from whacking their keyboard to whacking a person."
But it was worse for female candidates and Māori, he said.
"Not just a little bit, not just an increment, but orders in magnitude, from what I've seen my colleagues be exposed to. It is just unhinged."
There has been increased police participation in this campaign, Shaw said.
"Parliamentary security have got new protocols that we are observing. We have changed, for example, the way we campaign, the way we do public meetings, or when we're out and about, we're observing new security protocols that we haven't had in previous years."
Hipkins said where there might be additional risk, they have worked with Parliamentary Service on a cross-party basis to ensure there was additional support available for some MPs.
All parties have an interest in ensuring the election campaign was conducted safely, he said.
What has happened?
This week, Te Pāti Māori candidate Hana-Rāwhiti Maipi-Clarke's home was ram raided and invaded, with a threatening note left.
Police said they were investigating the burglary of a Huntly home, which was reported to them on Monday.
Te Pāti Māori issued a statement saying it was the third incident to take place at Maipi-Clarke's home this week.
Also this week, Labour candidate for Taranaki-King Country Angela Roberts said she had laid a complaint with the police about being assaulted at an election debate in Inglewood.
Hipkins said he had great respect for Roberts, and he told her she could take any time off if she needed to, but she has chosen not to.
"She's an incredibly staunch and energetic campaigner and I know it knocked the wind out of her sails a little bit, but I know that she's bouncing back."
On Thursday, Labour candidate for Northland Willow-Jean Prime told reporters she has faced the "worst comments and vitriol" in the seven campaigns she has been through - two in local government and five in central government.
"I was being shouted down every time I went to answer a question by supporters of other candidates primarily, there were not many of the general public in there," she said of a Taxpayers Union debate in Kerikeri.
"Whenever I said a te reo Māori word, like puku, for full tummies, lunches in schools, I was shouted at.
"When I said Aotearoa, the crowd responded 'It's New Zealand!'. When I said rangatahi, 'stop speaking that lanugage!' that is racism coming from the audience, that's not disagreeing with the gains I'm explaining that we've made in government."
She said she noticed that type of "dog-whistling" in other candidate debates, but not whilst out and about with the general public.
"What is really worrying is that they feel so emboldened to be able to come out and say this stuff publicly, they don't care that other people that might be in the audience, that might be listening or the impact that has on us as candidates."