Winston Peters determined to stir up race debate as election campaign kicks off in Christchurch

Winston Peters has told an audience at the New Zealand First party conference in Christchurch that co-governance with Māori was akin to apartheid and claimed the English language is being erased.

The party also today voted on a policy to remove almost all references to the Treaty of Waitangi from our laws.

Winston Peters parted the silver-haired sea and reeled out all his old classics.

"This is woke virtue-signalling madness again," he said. "When are we going to start putting New Zealand first?"

He promised if he comes back he'll ban gang patches in public.

"We are not going on in this country with these unlawful private armies," he said.

And warned his 250-strong audience about co-governance policies with Māori like the Māori Health Authority.

"Reform? No it's not. It's retarded theft," he said.

And Three Waters.

"Well I said it. That's what Three Waters is, retarded theft."

And he said that co-governance with Māori is the same as the brutal South African apartheid regime.

"With no handbrake, they are ramming it down your throats," Peters said.

Bay of Islands lodge owner Julian Batchelor had some of his land reclassified as Māori land and said Pākehā are being oppressed.

"I have personally been on the other end of apartheid."

Peters said "of course" he agreed.

"My whole speech was about that. Which part did you miss?"

Batchelor also put up policies on removing almost all references to the Treaty of Waitangi from legislation. Shane Jones was in favour of the idea - "with the exception where it would be unwise of us to unwind things like the Ngai Tahu settlement," he said.

And of making English an official language to stop it being erased.

"It is. Look on the TV news, it's being replaced by Te Reo," Batchelor said.

The campaign has just started for Peters. He's energised, he's optimistic and doggedly determined to stir up the race debate to make it an election issue.