Footage from National leader Christopher Luxon's public meeting in Nelson shows him carefully responding to a man who received a round of applause for denouncing te reo Māori.
Luxon, who was elected National Party leader in November after Judith Collins was ousted in a vote of no confidence, addressed the question during a Q&A session at his public meeting in Nelson on Thursday.
The man, who said he had been back in New Zealand for seven years after living in Australia for 31 years, asked the former Air New Zealand CEO why government departments and the media use "so much" te reo Māori.
"Statistics show us that there's 17.1 percent Māori in New Zealand, 4 percent of the population speak te reo. My question is: why are all government departments insisting on so much teo reo, and even the media?"
The man received a round of applause from others in the room.
He continued: "My wife, who was born and bred in Collingwood [near Nelson], the other day she shouted at the TV: 'speak English!'"
Luxon, who wants to learn te reo along with his wife, said it's a "great thing" if people want to learn it, but emphasised his belief that "we should target on the basis of need, not on the basis of ethnicity".
"Let me give you a clear view on where we stand," Luxon responded.
"The first thing I'd say is that we believe we are bigger than our individual identities. We are first and foremost New Zealanders and we believe we are one country. But we fundamentally believe that we should target on the basis of need, not on the basis of ethnicity.
"And so, we have real challenges. We've got a responsibility to help people in need. There is an overlap between ethnicity and need. But that should very much be the focus and starting point for that.
"With respect to te reo, I have to say that I am someone who wants to learn te reo myself. My wife has learnt te reo - she just wanted to do it and I think it's a great thing if people want to do it. They should be able to do that.
"I personally call New Zealand 'New Zealand'. Inside New Zealand I tend to call it 'Aotearoa New Zealand'. I think for us out in the world it makes sense to be branded as 'New Zealand', not as something else because it's very confusing for our marketers and people selling our products.
"I think we are a country that's very proud of our bicultural traditions that we need to celebrate and recognise. But we are also a multicultural, modern country going forward in the world as well and we want to be a very inclusive country for everybody and that's what we're going to put in place as a National Government."
Luxon's predecessor Collins often came under fire for her views on the subject. She accused the Government of "separatism by stealth" for introducing a Māori Health Authority and scrapping the ability for Māori wards to be overturned by a local poll.
Collins backed National MP Stuart Smith's call for a vote on whether New Zealand should be called 'Aotearoa'. The Papakura MP also told The Hui she felt "sick of being demonised" for her ethnicity.
But unlike former National leader Don Brash's Orewa speech of the early 2000s, Collins' beating of the race relations drum did nothing to improve National's polling.
Luxon will no doubt be mindful of that.