Judith Collins has explained a controversial tweet she sent on Monday perceived by some online to suggest she was endorsing the likening of a hongi to a headbutt.
Ahead of her meeting with the Australian Prime Minister in Queenstown, the National Party leader responded to a Twitter user urging her to treat Scott Morrison "like a civilised human being and don't head butt him". Collins responded: "Indeed..".
The tweets came after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern first met with Morrison on Sunday and was photographed embracing him with a hongi, an image of which circulated online.
Many on Twitter perceived Collins' tweet as endorsing a view that compared the hongi to a headbutt.
But Collins told The AM Show on Wednesday that's not the case.
"I meant I wasn't going to verbally headbutt him, attack him or anything," the National leader said.
"Certainly, one of the things I thought was unfortunate in the past, is where our Prime Minister has, on occasion, I think, set out to possibly embarrass Scott Morrison in front of an audience. That is not something that I think is helpful."
Collins said on Wednesday that she doesn't know if the Twitter user she responded to "meant anything other than what I interpreted it as", but criticised those who thought she was likening a hongi to a headbutt as "a few extreme left, hysterical people really, not sensible people".
National MPs leapt to their leader's defence on Tuesday.
"I don't know how one could infer a relationship to a hongi," said National Party deputy leader Dr Shane Reti.
"I don't understand that the word hongi was actually mentioned so it's sort of quite a long thread to draw those dots together, actually."
National MP Nicola Willis said Collins supports the hongi.
"A hongi is a wonderful part of culture and our heritage and I think it's wonderful to see it embraced," she said.
"I understand that's a misunderstanding in terms of the tweets. I'm not across the detail of it. But I know that I support the hongi and I know that our leader supports the hongi. It's an important cultural tradition."