Obese Kiwis with socio-economic or genetic reasons 'not the bigger group' - Shane Reti

Judith Collins is standing by her comments about obesity during the election campaign, saying she was quoted out of context and doubts it lost her party any votes. 

And her new deputy Shane Reti, a doctor, says Collins was right. 

"You know what, take some personal responsibility," Collins said in October, just days before voting in the general election closed.

She people should "own up to our little weaknesses" and said it wasn't an epidemic because you couldn't 'catch' it. 

The comments caused a firestorm of outrage, with medical professionals saying for many, it's not about choices - rather incomes, access to healthy food and New Zealand's obesogenic environment.  

A month on from the crushing election loss, Collins admitted on Newshub Nation she and her party made mistakes during the campaign - but this wasn't one of them. 

"It was obviously really very much taken out of context," she told host Simon Shepherd. "I was actually answering a question on sugar tax."

Dr Reti, appearing with Collins, said his party had a "good obesity framework" planned to tackle the problem, but agreed with Collins.

"If we inform you and give you the right information, we trust you to make the right choice."

While he acknowledged the role socio-economic factors and genetics can play, they're not the majority.

"There are all sorts of other reasons, medical reasons, for putting on weight - we understand that. It is not the bigger group." 

Shane Reti.
Shane Reti. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

Collins acknowledged some people would have felt alienated by her comments, but doesn't think it was the deciding factor in their election loss.

"People do have a lot of control over themselves, and there's never an answer just about taxing or telling people the Government is going to fix it... I think people will make their own assessments." 

The party will conduct a review into its campaign to figure out what really went wrong, with Collins saying the second lockdown in August would have played a big part.

"We'll find there are lots of things that went wrong, but we'll also find that there will be some glimmers that we can say 'well, that was good'. I think... the second lockdown was very, very challenging for us."

Collins once said if she led the party to a result or poll below 35 percent, she'd resign. National got 25.6 percent. 

"You have to look at where we were then. But actually we're not looking backwards. I think it's extremely important that the National Party takes this defeat as adults, and considers all the things we could have done better - but also to look to the future. We're not going to wallow in the past and navel-gaze; what we are going to be doing is being an effective Opposition and coming back strongly."

Collins believes National can come back strongly in 2023, citing how the party surged from 21 to 40 percent between 2002 and 2005 - if COVID stays out of the way.

"We were facing this year utterly extraordinary times, and we ended up with an extraordinary result. But there is absolutely - we saw what happened from 2002 to 2005... Then, they didn't have the COVID issues."