National leader Judith Collins' 'segregation' remark earns her Māori Party rebuke

Strengthening leadership and dealing with a lack of diversity are on the National Party's must-do list.

That's according to recommendations made in its top-secret election review. Newshub was leaked an abridged version of the recommendations, which was sent to the party's membership on Tuesday night.

A lot went wrong for National on the election campaign. The party couldn't get its messaging straight, it was distracted, MPs were leaking, and the party was lacking leadership.

"None of this is secret, this is stuff we've talked about before, and we've moved past it," National leader Judith Collins told The AM Show on Wednesday.

The National Party didn't want to pick over the bones in public. Its election review was kept under lock and key.

But on Tuesday night, a sanitised, abridged version of the recommendations was sent to the party membership and swiftly forwarded to Newshub.

It hones in on the Auckland Central mess: a regional chair pretending to be a dude called Merv to undermine a candidate.

Now changes have been recommended to be able to sack party officials on matters of integrity and honesty. Diversity and Māori representation are also major work-ons for National.

The review recommends embedding Te Tiriti o Waitangi into the National Party Constitution. At the moment it's not included or even referenced. It also recommends one board seat is specifically allocated to a Māori Director.

But Collins is adamant talent will prevail over quotas. 

"I think it is absolutely crucial that the National Party, like this country, does not go down a path of quotas, looking at people based on their ethnicity or their gender or their age, rather than looking at what they bring to the table," she told The AM Show.

And to really drive that point home, Collins swiftly went on to make this call: "Segregation is not something that worked in the 20th Century."

Collins conflated the Government's planned Māori Health Authority with segregation.

"She might want to look towards the review from her election," says Associate Health Minister for Māori Peeni Henare. "She might see that actually, recognising Māori is a good thing."

Not to mention, segregation being a very evocative word.

"She's using the term segregation to race-bait," says Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. "It's really abhorrent - probably the lowest of lows I've seen Judith go, to be honest."

The review also found Collins' leadership needs work.

It says strengthening leadership is "a key task" for the party, and "bad behaviour needs to be called out and dealt with quickly".

The review also encouraged succession planning.

Collins laughed when Newshub asked if there's a leadership succession plan.

"That's up to the caucus and the party."

Analysis by Political Editor Tova O'Brien

The problem for Judith Collins is that she won't have any say in it. Those cloak and dagger coup conversations never really stopped since the election. It's just unlikely they'll be acted on until next year.

It leaves Collins hanging a bit - a kind of lame duck sitting duck - which will probably engender more of the inflammatory rhetoric we heard today.

There are plenty in the National Party who don't necessarily want to see separate initiatives targeted at Māori despite National being in power when Whānau Ora was introduced, when Kōhanga Reo were first funded.

But the evocative language Collins used today - separatist, segregation - is a leap from what the party was saying last week when the Māori Health Authority was actually announced.

It may have worked in desperation for former National leader Don Brash at Orewa, but that was nearly two decades ago.

Collins has gone further and it's also just odd and inconsistent, given the review recommendations and National's decision this year to stand in the Māori seats.