New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is stepping up his attack on the iwi which own public transport operator Go Bus, over claims it's looking offshore for new workers instead of employing jobless locals.
Mr Peters says the company has asked for help from Immigration New Zealand to bring foreign workers into the country from Samoa and the Philippines.
It's owned by Ngai Tahu and Waikato Tainui and operates buses in Christchurch, Tauranga, Hamilton, and a number of other regional cities.
"It's advertising offshore for drivers. It's not training and recruiting young Māori, no. It's going offshore and getting people from the Philippines and elsewhere, including the Pacific," says Mr Peters.
"We did not desire, surely, to set up what I call the 'Māori brown table' to replace the round table we used to have in the white man's world so to speak.
"It's gone to the Immigration department to facilitate that access to New Zealand when we have 70,000 unemployed youth in New Zealand now. It's absolutely wrong they are doing this."
The iwi purchased Go Bus from a Sydney private equity company in 2014 for $170 million. Mr Peters says that money came from Treaty settlements.
"Here we go. They've got the money, they've got the biggest bus company in the country, and now they're hiring new drivers offshore," he says.
"If you use Māori numbers to get the [Treaty] compensation then why aren't you making your first efforts in employment back to your own people? It's that simple," says Mr Peters.
The allegations are being rubbished by Go Bus managing director Calum Haslop, who says Winston Peters has the wrong end of the stick.
"Go Bus is not recruiting offshore at the moment. We've not advertised for any positions in the islands, we don't have a policy to recruit from the islands, and we don't have any intention of recruiting from the islands at this stage," he says.
Mr Haslop has confirmed there were conversations with Immigration New Zealand about foreign recruitment but they never gained any traction due to a huge demand from jobless locals.
"We had a chat with Immigration New Zealand very early on in the piece for our Auckland recruitment and just looked at [foreign recruitment] as an option should we need it if we had a problem with local recruitment.
"But we've been delighted with the response to our local recruitment and haven't needed to take it any further and don't intend to," he says.
Immigration New Zealand says there haven't been any recent interactions with the company and there are no visa applications underway.