Don Brash has kicked off Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori with a "blasphemous" takedown of the haka.
"I'm going to say something which is almost blasphemous in New Zealand - I'm not sure that the haka is a good representation of who we are, and if it is, it worries me," the former National Party leader told RadioLIVE's Weekend Life show on Sunday.
"It is basically a war dance, and violence - particularly domestic violence - is one of our major headaches in New Zealand. The haka to me seems to glorify it and that often worries me."
Appearing on the show with Dr Brash was FIRST Union general secretary Robert Reid, who interrupted him.
"Oh, come on. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it right there. Don't giggle about it either. To say the haka glorifies domestic violence, to use the parliamentary term, please withdraw and apologise."
But Dr Brash, founder of lobby group Hobson's Pledge, continued.
"The haka is a war dance. It implies we're going to slaughter our opponents on the rugby field. We often draw our finger across our throat to emphases the point. I think it's overdone."
Listener Sonya texted RadioLIVE to say she was "disgusted" with Dr Brash's comments.
"Our Māori culture contributes to tourism, and don't forget that haka makes New Zealanders feel true, proud and strong."
The response on social media was similar.
"Don Brash is a world renowned expert on inflation targeting and monetary economics," said Twitter user @kilbrniesanders. "He is not on anything else. Not NZ history. Not Tikanga Māori. Not Te Reo. Stop it. Stop inviting him on to be your pet racist. Just stop."
Is the haka a war dance?
According to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage's Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand website, there are several types of haka - only one of which is a true war dance, the peruperu.
The others include:
- haka taparahi - a ceremonial dance performed without weapons
- tūtūngārahu - a "divinatory" dance performed with weapons to judge whether young men are ready to battle
- ngeri - an "exhortation to rouse a group to achieve its objective", performed without weapons
- puha - a dance performed to raise an alarm.
The famous 'Ka Mate' haka performed by the All Blacks does include lines translated as "You die! We live!", but ironically the haka which features the throat-slitting gesture Dr Brash mentioned - the much-less performed 'Kapo o Pango' - is less violent in its approach.
Listen to the interviews above.
Weekend Life - the Sunday edition, 10am-2pm Sunday on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.