National Party leader Simon Bridges says he is not trying to inflame the situation at Ihumātao by demanding the Prime Minister tell the protesters to go home.
And he says it is "ridiculous" to compare his comments to US President Donald Trump, who was widely condemned - including by Jacinda Ardern - for telling elected congresswomen to go back where they came from.
"Complete nonsense. Clearly that's not what I'm saying," Bridges told the Herald.
"That's just some on the left trying to discredit me and my views rather than dealing with the issues. I don't want to inflame things here. I want to ensure we actually see a sensible situation."
Twitter reacted strongly to Bridges' "go home" comments, with comparisons to Trump and questions around Bridges' Maori heritage and advocacy.
But Bridges was unrepentant.
"We live in a free country where people are entitled to their views, but being Maori doesn't mean I have to think and sound a certain way."
Protests at the site are now entering their fourth week, and Bridges said some were engaging peacefully.
"But there's also a rent-a-crowd that's come from far and wide. They want a cause, and frankly they've got nothing better to do."
His comments echoed New Zealand First MP and Minister Shane Jones, who has called the protesters yoga pants-wearing freedom campers who just jumped on a political carousel.
Asked if he should have chosen less inflammatory language than "go home", Bridges said his comments were aimed at the Prime Minister.
"She has escalated this and it's now to show leadership. She needs to tell protesters to go home, and then we can allow the developers to get on and build some homes."
Ardern brokered a halt to the housing development on July 26 while discussions to find a resolution continued.
Asked yesterday about Bridges' "go home" comments, Ardern said: "It's up to the leader of the Opposition to take his own position and it's not for me to determine what that should be."
She has said that it is a complex issue and the Government's Maori Ministers were supporting the work led by Kīngitanga to bring all the parties to the table to find a solution.
Bridges said the current approach was empowering the protesters, which could lead to more protests.
"There's also a real risk of re-opening the full and final Treaty settlements, both in general and certainly in relation to private land. That's both dangerous and incredibly costly, potentially, to New Zealanders."
Treaty Settlements Minister Andrew Little suggested to The Nation at the weekend that the Crown should not buy back the land.
"That would effectively open up 88 settled Treaty agreements, as well as completely change the landscape for about 50 others."
He said the Crown's role was to support the stakeholders.
"But the Crown can't provide a solution, because the number of stakeholders and those with an interest in that piece of land is extensive, even amongst Māoridom. So that discussion needs to happen.
"I think the occupiers there, SOUL – they have an absolute passion for protecting the heritage value of the land. I think everybody understands that. But we can't ignore the legal complications and complexities that go with this in relation to the Treaty settlement programme, in relation to land generally."