Shane Jones has been scolded in Parliament after yelling "Ngāti Epsom" when Paul Goldsmith stood to speak, after National's new deputy leader Nikki Kaye wrongly described the Epsom-based MP as Māori.
House Speaker Trevor Mallard ordered Jones, a Northland-based New Zealand First MP, to apologise for the wisecrack, but Mallard also acknowledged it was a "matter that's had some publicity".
"It's an error made by a Member of Parliament and my view is that it should be left there and frankly I would've thought that the relatively senior member from the North should know better."
But Jones' boss Winston Peters came to his defence, saying it's important "for anyone in this country who's been here and has ancestry of a thousand years who is Māori, that people are actually identified to be either that or not".
Peter said it is "not a matter of racism" and that it's a "legitimate thing to raise in this House when someone has the ignorance to say that someone is Māori and that person says he is not".
Goldsmith, a list MP based in Epsom, was hailed as Māori by the new National Party deputy leader on Tuesday in defence of a lack of Māori MPs in the party's new top 12.
Kaye said Goldsmith - number five on National's list - is "obviously Ngāti Porou", the iwi traditionally located in the East Cape and Gisborne regions.
But Goldsmith told Newshub he is not Māori. He said while his family "has connections with Ngāti Porou" he has "never claimed to be of Ngāti Porou descent".
National leader Muller has insisted his caucus is diverse, telling media on Tuesday: "We have 55 people coming from a huge amount of different experiences - gender, ethnicity, work experiences."
He said the list rankings "are less important to the jobs that I've asked them to do and that is part of the broader effort we will bring over the next few weeks".
But National's Māori development spokesperson Jo Hayes says she will be questioning Muller about why the new leadership team is lacking Māori voices.
"This is not good," Hayes told Radio Waatea. "We need to remedy this or you need to front it and take it head-on and say why. You need to give a better explanation."
Peters said the topic of discussion "may be of some embarrassment" but that's "no reason why we should avoid the silliness I've seen in other countries where someone was called Pocahontas because of a claim to be Indian".
US Senator Elizabeth Warren was labelled Pocahontas by President Donald Trump in 2016 after controversially claiming Cherokee and Delaware Indian heritage despite having no documentation proving it.
Peters said if the issue is "still drumming around in the American political system" then "surely we can have our day of fun".