'New Zealand' or 'Aotearoa'? Judith Collins backs National MP Stuart Smith's call for referendum

Judith Collins is backing National MP Stuart Smith's call for a vote on whether New Zealand should be called Aotearoa - which Labour ministers have described it as "ridiculous" and "stupid". 

It came as National MPs gleefully returned to Parliament on Tuesday following a three-week recess, after Labour tumbled in the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll. 

"One in four Labour voters peeled off them, the centre-right block going, it's all on - I'm excited!" National MP Matt Doocey told Newshub on his way into the office. 

But not that they're benefitting, because their leader Judith Collins is now less popular than ACT leader David Seymour. So, is the roly-poly party ready to roll... again? 

"The caucus is in great shape," said National MP Christopher Luxon. 

"Of course not," said National MP Erica Stanford. 

"Absolutely we are," said National MP Michael Woodhouse. 


Woodhouse later clarified: "Nice play on words, you know what I meant."

Collins is confident that her caucus is not going to roll her. 

"No, they're definitely not," she said. "No, they're very focussed on the things that matter to New Zealanders."

And the most likely leadership successor rushed to her defence.

"Judith Collins is an outstanding leader, she's doing a great job, stabilising us and getting us focussed on what matters most," said Luxon. 

Like whether the public needs a referendum on the use of the name Aotearoa... 

"We could probably go to a referendum on [it] and ask people what they want. People are starting to get, I think, quite tetchy about it," said Collins, claiming the Government is trying to secretly change the name of the country.

"They're now changing it, the Prime Minister changes the way she talks about it, you barely ever hear her talk about New Zealand these days... I think it is becoming like that by stealth."

It's a conspiratorial theory led by her MP Stuart Smith. He says despite there not being a public poll on the name 'New Zealand', there should be one on 'Aotearoa'.

"It is the established name," he says. "It's on all official documents."

But 'Aotearoa' has also been on the cover of New Zealand passports since 2009 - when National was in Government. New Zealand banknotes also feature 'Aotearoa', since Sir John Key unveiled them in 2015. 

"Stuart Smith is desperate and stupid," said Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson. 

"I think it's entirely ridiculous," added Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little. 

Even ACT won't touch this one.

"I would have thought New Zealand had bigger issues today than policing what people call our country," said Seymour. 

Collins was also called out on Tuesday for saying people want to "bottle" Police Minister Poto Williams. 

"The reaction and response of my family feeling unsafe for me is causing me distress," Williams told reporters. 

"Oh no I was speaking about, as a genie in a bottle," Collins clarified. "That's what I was speaking about."

And this is precisely why National isn't soaring in the polls - these small fry issues. Despite the Government failing, National is still flailing.