Treaty of Waitangi was 'agreement for Crown to take sovereignty', not 'a forced colonisation' - Judith Collins

Judith Collins has described the Treaty of Waitangi as an "agreement for the Crown to take sovereignty", labelling it "entirely different from a forced colonisation".

The Opposition leader made the remarks during an interview with Magic Talk on Wednesday, in which she was also asked about comments made by National MP Paul Goldsmith on colonisation.

Goldsmith drew controversy last week after he told Newshub Nation that "on balance", more good had come from colonisation for Māori than bad - a remark that drew major backlash from fellow MPs.

On Wednesday, Collins said she felt what he'd said had been "taken somewhat out of context".

"What he was trying to say is that if you look at things like democracy, the rule of law, these are good things that came from the association with the British Empire," she told host Peter Williams.

"But he also pointed out that he realised that for many people, particularly Māori, that colonisation would've felt like a really hard thing."

When Williams asked her what she herself made of the impacts of colonisation, Collins again noted the adoption of the British Empire's "rule of law and order" but said "losing your land, losing your language - all these things are not good things".

"I can't think of any people who have been colonised who would end up going 'yes, I would like that one again'," she said.

"But obviously, the Treaty of Waitangi is an unusual situation, you know, an unusual event in colonisations, because that was an agreement for the Crown to take sovereignty that was entirely different from a forced colonisation."

The idea Māori willingly agreed to the British Empire taking sovereignty when they signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 is one of the most contentious debates surrounding our nation's founding document.

Under the English version of the Treaty, Māori handed over sovereignty to the British Queen, effectively ceding total control of New Zealand. However in the Te Reo version, Māori retained rangatiratanga (sovereignty) and only agreed to cede kawanatanga (governance) to the British. 

According to the Waitangi Tribunal, many people believe most Māori would not have signed the Treaty if the Māori version had used the word 'rangatiratanga' rather than 'kawanatanga'.

Collins went on to say that the Land Wars, in which thousands of Māori lost their lives then had their land confiscated by the Crown, were clear breaches of the Treaty.

"So it's pretty clear that there's, you know, good things and bad things [from colonisation]... [but] I just think it's always good to understand that people who are colonised very seldom ask for it again."

However she urged Kiwis to "get over ourselves" and "understand there are some good things from our association with the British Empire".

"I think for many Māori, it was not a good experience, and many people were now addressing the bad things of colonisation. But not everything was bad, and I think it would be better to have the British than, say, many other nations."

Earlier on Wednesday, Collins distanced herself from Goldsmith's views on colonisation, telling The AM Show the way he'd expressed himself was "not the way I would put it".

"I think any peoples that have been colonised tend not to enjoy it at all, and I think that in many cases there have been huge injustices. Which is why we've always signed up, we have such a proud record of dealing with the grievances and making sure the Treaty of Waitangi was honoured. 

"The big difference in the colonisation of New Zealand versus many others is that there was a treaty - the problem is the treaty was breached on numerous occasions.