Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia says the arrival of Christianity in New Zealand and colonisation introduced the concept of smacking children to Maori.
"Our people did not hit their tamariki. That only came about through colonisation and through Christianity actually," she said on Marae on Saturday.
She said the strongest opponents to Sue Bradford's private member's bill - banning physical force being used against children as a punishment - was from Christians who wanted to reserve the right to "smack their children lovingly".
"Well, I've never seen anybody give a child a loving smack."
Larry Baldock, the former MP who is attempting to get a citizens-initiated referendum opposing the bill, said he felt sorry that Mrs Turia had never had the opportunity to see someone give a loving smack.
"It occurred in my family."
The Anglican Church's social justice commissioner, Rev Anthony Dancer, said Mrs Turia was "absolutely right" in regards to Maori having had non-violent ways of disciplining their children because that was recorded by missionaries.
"Mission schools did introduce the cane and promote it as a good thing but the corporal punishment within family life would also have been learned to a large extent by others involved in colonisation - such as traders and seamen."
The shift towards more violent forms of child-rearing was not consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ which was why the Anglican Church had supported Sue Bradford's bill repealing section 59 of the Crimes Act.