Former Māori Party leader Dame Tariana Turia has accused the Corrections Minister of racism for her views on tikanga Māori prison programmes.
Minister of Corrections Judith Collins said Māori-focused programmes were not working and instead there is a 2.6 percent increase in re-conviction rates.
Her comments come after Whanganui Black Power member Ngapari Nui was stood down from his volunteer position in prisons after his gang affiliations were pointed out to the Minister.
However, Mr Nui is not a part of the tikanga Māori prison programme.
Ms Turia told Morning Report it was impossible to draw that conclusion because prisoners never do just one programme, so it was unfair to single them out.
"What I am saying for her to pick on one programme, actually what it highlights for me is the racism that resides in Judith Collins."
In a statement Ms Collins said she would not respond to personal attacks but she has "absolutely no tolerance for racism".
However, Ms Turia said prison programmes have been failing for years before tikanga Māori was started.
Mr Nui had done nothing wrong, and had been working in the community for 20 years, she said.
"I think it is very shallow and narrow-minded of the minister to be attacking him in this way."
The focus should be on the good that people did, not who they affiliate with, she said.
But Ms Collins said she was focused on what works for prisoners and her comments were based on evidence.
"Active gang members should not have access to prisoners. Gangs cause significant harm in our community and in our prisons," she said.