John Tamihere believes Don Brash is "confused" after the former National leader said he'd be a "very happy person" if the Māori Party was to disestablish and never come back.
Dr Brash, a member of controversial lobby group Hobson's Pledge, told Magic Talk's Road to the Election on Sunday that the Māori Party was "race-based" and that he was "dead-keen for them to die".
But Māori Party co-leader Tamihere says Dr Brash has it all wrong, pointing to racial inequalities as proof the party has an important function in Aotearoa's political landscape.
The pair debated this week on Magic Talk, with host Sean Plunket playing moderator - and Dr Brash used the opportunity to double down on his comments the previous day.
"I don't want New Zealand politics to be based on race, and to me the Māori Party is quintessentially a racist party," he said on Monday afternoon.
"It's basically appealing to one particular race. If I were to set up a 'White Party' or 'Chinese New Zealand Party', people would rightly say that is racist.
"What is different because it's a Māori Party?"
Tamihere responded to Dr Brash by calling him confused - saying the Māori Party isn't race-based, but rather rights-based, because it represents an indigenous population.
"This race of people have got no other country to jump on an Endeavour or tin budgie and go elsewhere to then say they are the indigenous people," he said.
"We also entered into - and you neglect this - the Treaty of Waitangi. That constitutional document is writ large in legislation across the landscape of New Zealand, including the Bill of Rights and the Human Rights Act.
"To suggest that we're the same as the Chinese Party or Pacific Party that just registered in 2014 is not true."
Dr Brash argued that it didn't matter that they represented indigenous people, because ultimately the party is "promoting the interests of one particular race at a particular level".
He described them as a "malign influence on the Government" following the 2008 election, when they helped form a coalition with National.
However, Tamihere says the Māori Party is necessary because racial inequality in Aotearoa still exists, in spite of the Treaty promising the same treatment of Māori as British subjects (Pākehā).
"Equality is a measure, you mightn't see it that way, because you come from a majority race of people who are very good at living off stolen Māori assets," he told Plunket, after the host had argued Māori had the same citizenship rights as Pākehā.
"Deciles 1-5, how many Māori are there and how many are in deciles 6-10? Straight away you've got inequality in education.
"The day you start talking about inequality is the day you have to start looking at the causation of it."
Last week, Tamihere revealed he would be seventh on the Māori Party list despite being a co-leader alongside Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, who tops the list.
Tamihere said listing himself at number seven was "the Māori thing to do" and a way to honour others in the party.
The party failed to win any seats at the 2017 election, getting just 1.18 percent of the overall vote.
The latest Newshub Reid-Research poll shows the Māori Party on 0.4 percent this time around - well below the 5 percent threshold required to get into Parliament.
However Tamihere told Magic Talk the Māori Party has never relied on a party vote to get in, and has high hopes candidates will win their electorates.