National leader Christopher Luxon took the podium on Thursday for a Q&A session during his party's public meeting in Nelson and promptly faced a controversial question.
As reported by Newshub, a man, who said he had been back in New Zealand for seven years, having lived in Australia for 31, asked the former Air New Zealand chief executive why government departments and media were "insisting on so much te reo". The question got a round of applause from the audience.
The man asked: "Statistics show us that there's 17.1% Māori in New Zealand, 4% of the population speak te reo. My question is: Why are all government departments insisting on so much to reo, and even the media?"
"My wife, who was born and bred in Collingwood [near Nelson], the other day she shouted at the TV: 'speak English!'"
Luxon replied: "We believe that 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.
Wants to learn te reo
"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."
Luxon then gave his personal view on the matter, revealing that he wants to learn te reo as well.
"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."
Luxon says he personally calls New Zealand 'New Zealand', but when in the country he calls it 'Aotearoa New Zealand', and says the different names can be 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."