Judith Collins is vowing to keep probing Labour's Māori 'co-governance' plans despite Newshub polling showing 44.5 percent of Kiwis think National is being divisive.
"This is absolutely crucial. The Government did not campaign on it in the election. They did not tell people what they were doing and we're being told that if we raise these issues then that makes us bad people," Collins told Magic Talk on Monday.
"Well, no, we have to raise these issues. It's going to be too late if they just go ahead and do everything they're doing."
Collins has for weeks speculated that the Government is implementing "separatism by stealth", after being leaked a copy of He Puapua, a Government report commissioned in 2019 that sets out a roadmap to co-governance between the Crown and Māori by 2040.
Paradoxically, the report was commissioned as a response to former Prime Minister John Key - Collins' old boss - signing New Zealand up in 2010 to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
Collins has opposed plans for a Māori Health Authority and Māori wards in local councils, and last week raised concerns about a document she was leaked proposing the transfer of Department of Conservation land to Māori.
Despite sparking uproar in Parliament last week after the Māori Party accused her of using "racist rhetoric", Collins has continued down the same path.
She told National supporters over the weekend she'd been leaked a Department of Internal Affairs proposal to transfer 50 percent of publicly-owned water assets in the South Island to Ngāi Tahu ownership.
Ngāi Tahu quickly responded by confirming it is "not proposing ownership" of water assets in the South Island but is exploring co-governance responsibilities with local councils.
Collins is standing by her claims, because in the document she was leaked, a diagram titled 'Joint governance model - Ngāi Tahu Takiwa', states in the recommendations: "Owners are the Canterbury councils and Ngāi Tahu."
But Ngāi Tahu said the diagram shows one option proposed by independent consultants that was not pursued by the iwi.
"If Judith Collins had bothered to ask Ngāi Tahu about this proposal, instead of seeking headlines, she would have had the correct facts sooner," said Dr Te Maire Tau, chair of Te Kura Taka Pini, the Ngāi Tahu freshwater group.
Collins insists she's acting on behalf of all New Zealanders, who she says deserve to know the Government's entire 'co-governance' plans.
But it appears the country isn't behind her.
The latest Newshub-Reid Research Poll showed 44.5 percent of New Zealanders think National is being divisive, including one in five National voters - 23.5 percent.
Collins' personal popularity has also slipped, with just 5.6 percent, down 12.8 points - preferring her as Prime Minister. Her rating is even less than her predecessor Sir John Key on 6.7 percent - and he's not even a politician.
But Collins isn't showing any sign of backing down.
"There's a big chunk of people who are very pro the line we're taking," she told Magic Talk.
"And don't forget, this poll was started a couple of weeks back before some of the detail was coming out. We're getting detail from people who are leaking the detail to us because they are shocked by what they are seeing and they know we will take the issue up.
"So am I going to stop on it? No I'm not, absolutely not. This is crucial for our country, and this far out from an election, these are the times we should be talking about it, because otherwise it just gets pushed away in the rush of an election."
Collins said she's seen "no evidence whatsoever" of National MPs not supporting her.
"What I have seen, though, is huge support. Every one of our caucus members is turning up to our regional meetings. Every one of them will be seeing the enormous support from the party members and the delegates."
With National still sitting below 30 percent in Newshub's poll, speculation is growing that Collins will soon be ousted as leader. But Collins says she does not feel threatened and that her colleagues realise how tough the job is.
"I feel very strong and I know I have huge support. It's a tough job. There's a reason people say the leader of the Opposition's the toughest job in politics and that's because it is. Part of it is just fending off silly stories and things because people don't want to deal with the big issues.
"I just think most New Zealanders would be appalled if they realised what the Government is doing behind their backs. I will call them out, I won't stop, I'm going to keep on going, and the more that the Māori Party behaves like it does and the Labour Party does and Parliament gets all upset I ask the question, the more I'm going to do it."