National, Labour MPs react to Paul Goldsmith's views on colonisation

Several National MPs have openly disagreed with their colleague Paul Goldsmith who told Newshub Nation colonisation of New Zealand was a good thing "on balance". 

"I have a different view to Paul," former National leader Todd Muller told reporters on his way into caucus on Tuesday morning. 

"Would I prefer to be alive today or 1840? For me, absolutely today, but I think certainly from my perspective, on balance, it was a very brutal time for Māori in this country."

Former Air New Zealand chief and MP for Botany, Christopher Luxon, also disagreed with Goldsmith. 

"It wasn't good for Māori," he said. "There's no doubt about it - colonisation was not good for Māori as we saw with breaches in the Treaty and we saw with the New Zealand Land Wars.

"We've worked incredibly hard as the National Party to make sure we make those wrongs right and work hard on Treaty settlements and all of the other things we've done over the last 20 years. 

"Colonisation was bad for Māori."

National MP Stuart Smith had a similar view. 

"I don't think colonisation was very good for anyone."

Matt Doocey, National's mental health spokesperson, said Māori are overrepresented in mental health statistics and acknowledged there is a lot more work to do to level the playing field for Māori. 

"On saying that, foreign investment flows as part of the Commonwealth when you look at times from the 1840s on, it has helped to build New Zealand as we know it today and that has improved the living standards of New Zealanders," he said. 

"But I think we'd have to accept that colonisation has had some negative impact. I've got my views and I've said them today and Paul's got his as well and he's explained his and I respect his views."

National leader Judith Collins recognised how Māori might not see colonisation as a good thing. 

"Most colonised people don't feel that colonisation works well for them. I certainly think the Irish don't and nor do many Indians," she said. 

"But I think that when we look at the Treaty of Waitangi, it's a very unusual thing to have in terms of colonisation where there was actually an agreement between two peoples.

"When I think about it in context, am I proud of the work National has done in addressing the injustices? Yes I am. Am I proud of many of the achievements that New Zealand together has been able to achieve? Yes I am. But I'm also very aware that there were massive injustices, particularly breaches of the Treaty."

Former National leader Simon Bridges said it's not black and white. 

"I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for colonisation so it can't be all bad. I think that's actually the point - the reality is it's somewhat good, somewhat bad - it's all these things, but I don't know that trying to naval gaze and trying to feel guilty about that is going to make a blind bit of difference."

National MP Chris Bishop shared the sentiment that whether colonisation was a good thing is complex. 

"It's very difficult to make a binary for or against assessment of these things. Our history is much more mixed than that and I think narrowing down the settlement of New Zealand and the effect of colonisation of Māori to a binary 'is it good or bad' question I think is actually disrespectful to the history of New Zealand."

National MP David Bennett said it's Māori who should be asked the question. 

"I think we have to listen to what Māori have to say about the issue and I think there's important lessons for everyone in it."

National MP Michael Woodhouse said New Zealand is a good place to live today. 

"I think diversity's a really important thing but it's also necessary to acknowledge the first people and the Treaty obligations the Crown has to them," he said. 

"We're a modern country and looking back 200 years, and seeing how it's changed, I think is a measure of the fact that we are a first world country. We are one of the most modern countries in the world and I think overall, I'm very pleased I live here."

Labour digs at National

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern didn't have a lot to say about Goldsmith's comments. 

"That's not an argument you'll hear me making."

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said he didn't think most New Zealanders would agree with Goldsmith. 

"Māori unfortunately find themselves at the wrong end of most statistics socially and economically and we need to do better and that's what we're trying to do," he said. 

"I just think it defies reality and it defies the experience that Māori have had in New Zealand and we can see that in housing and various other parts of the economy and social outcomes. So as a country, we know we've got to do better and we're committed to doing that."

Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson said he wasn't surprised. 

"He's reflecting what too many people think that it was a good thing for us. It's just a load of nonsense. That's why I put an invitation out to Goldsmith to come to my marae and we'll tell him what colonisation has done to people in south Auckland."

Whanau Ora Minister Peeni Henare said Goldsmith's comments were "ignorant". 

"They're just not helpful and they certainly don't align with the histories that I've learnt and others have learnt through their studies and I think it's really ignorant and it sets us back. It certainly is dismissive." 

Housing Minister Megan Woods said Goldsmith's assessment was too simple. 

"I think that's a far too simple way to view the world and I would expect someone who has training in history to have a more complex understanding."

Goldsmith is standing by his remarks. 

"The fundamental point I'm trying to make is that when we stand back and look at New Zealand and what we've created, which is the result of colonisation, I think on balance, New Zealand is a good thing. I'm proud of New Zealand, I'm proud of what we've achieved, I'm proud to be a New Zealander.

"Now does that sort of say that bad things didn't happen? Of course not. And do we try to diminish the harsh experiences of many Māori? Of course not. I'm just saying, on balance, I'm positive about New Zealand and I'm proud to be a New Zealander."