National leader Judith Collins has blasted concerns about lack of diversity in society, claiming "people have felt very segregated" because of it - but she has no plans to get rid of the Māori electorates.
Collins was asked during a Q&A with Te Awamutu locals on Friday if she agreed that society had become more segregated. She did, saying there is "this chopping up of society into hating each other".
Collins said it was "so awful" when she was criticised in May for asking if there was something wrong with her being white after then-National leader Todd Muller revealed an all-Caucasian frontbench - Collins included.
"I think one of the things I felt was so awful recently, is when I was asked by media if I was worried about diversity in the National Party and I was in the frontbench," Collins told the Te Awamutu locals.
"I just said, 'well, is there something wrong with me being white?' That was like a bomb went off in media-land. I mean, the fact is, you are who you are and everybody needs to understand we're all in it together.
"If Māori do well, if everyone else does well, Pākehā - everyone needs to be in it together. My son is Samoan and European and Chinese a little bit. He's just a kid - he's not something else.
"People have felt very segregated. It is true that Māori are way overrepresented in the poverty statistics and everything else. But the best thing to do is to get kids taught at school, look after your own kids and be careful."
Collins said she had no plans to remove the Māori electorate seats, despite one of the locals suggesting it's unfair because "we have politicians in Parliament there to represent Māori only".
Collins said there are more important things for her to worry about.
"I know what you mean but I'm not actually going to fix that one. I've got to be honest about it, I won't tell you I'll fix something if I'm not going to. But I do think that the big thing is for Parliament to actually represent everybody," Collins said.
"I represent people of Papakura. That doesn't mean to say I can't represent you too and your views on things. But everyone has their different things and we still have Māori electorates.
"We've always said in the National Party, they'll be gone when people don't think they're relevant anymore, and right at the moment, just having people engaged and thinking about politics, it doesn't worry me that much.
"I just think there are bigger things to do, and the biggest thing we can deal with is the economy at the moment... people being in jobs."
Collins became National Party leader last month after Muller stepped down. He came under fire for his two caucus reshuffles as leader, due to the lack of diversity on his frontbench.
Collins ended up resolving the diversity doubt by promoting former leader Simon Bridges, who is Māori, to number four, followed by Dr Shane Reti - also Māori - at number five.
But it wasn't intentional, apparently. Collins told Magic Talk at the time she would not consider diversity when reshuffling her caucus and would "not be distracted by people's gender or ethnicity".
"I've never really thought ethnicity was all that important - I'm an ethnic minority in my own home," she said at the time, referring to the fact her husband is Samoan.
"I am someone who believes [the decision should be made] utterly on merit... you pick the right people for the job, and that job is to do what you have to do and not worry too much about how they look, what their gender is or anything else."
Collins told The Hui last month she has been approached by several would-be candidates who are keen to run in the Māori seats and is exploring the possibility.