National's education spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says while colonisation may have been "traumatic" for Māori, overall it has had a positive effect.
Speaking to Newshub Nation on Saturday, the National MP was asked about an opinion piece from 2019 discussing colonisation in which he wrote, 'Did the good outweigh the bad? Surely, we have to say, yes.'
Asked if he thought the good has outweighed the bad specifically for Māori, the National MP replied: "The reality is that New Zealand was isolated from the rest of the world for centuries and at some point it had to reconnect with the rest of the world. And that happened in the 19th century was always going to be a very traumatic experience.
"But with it came all sorts of wonderful things, such as literacy, such as the freedoms and democracy that have come through... I think on balance it has, yes."
Goldsmith clashed with the Government this week over the term 'white privilege' being incorporated into official teaching material, which he says "imports American-style culture wars" into the classroom.
When asked if he thought white privilege existed, Goldsmith was non-committal.
"There's privilege across New Zealand. The problem with [white privilege] is it's a stereotype. There are certainly New Zealanders of European origin who are privileged, and there are New Zealanders of European origin who are not privileged, who are struggling," he said.
"If you focus on the things that actually make a difference in the education context, get them to school, make sure that at school that teaches literacy and math and they are well prepared to succeed in the 21st century and a global universe, then that's more important."
The Government has shrugged off Goldsmith's criticisms, saying white privilege is a 'theme' but not a core part of the curriculum.
Staff at the Ministry of Education and the Education Review Office have attended workshops called Beyond Diversity - Courageous Conversations About Race, including a section specifically on 'white privilege'. A blueprint for the Ministry of Education initiative Te Hurihanganui also directly mentions "recognising white privilege".
Despite it being a component of our education system, Education Minister Chris Hipkins expressed doubts about the term, telling Newshub Nation it wasn't particularly "helpful".
"It's a bit like the use of the word racism - it just puts up a barrier to people engaging constructively, when actually you want to get people to step out of their comfort zone a little bit, you want to create a space where people can say 'actually, I will reflect on my own views and my own practises, and maybe I am wrong'," he said.
"But just putting up simplistic phrases that gets people's backs up, actually discourages them from engaging in that kind of debate."
Goldsmith is relatively fresh to the education role, having lost the finance portfolio in National's latest caucus reshuffle after publishing a flagship economic policy with a $4 billion fiscal hole in it. When the error was pointed out by Grant Robertson, Goldsmith called it an "irritating mistake".
Asked what National's biggest mistake was in the last election, Goldsmith pointed to "internal division"'.
"[ Voters] looked at us and they saw us arguing, changing leaders all the time. And they thought, well, that's not a crowd we can trust the country and the economy, too. And so discipline and demonstrating that we know how to manage ourselves is an important place to start."