National leader Todd Muller and his deputy Nikki Kaye made a blunder today in defending the diversity of their shadow cabinet by suggesting that Paul Goldsmith was Māori when he is not.

The pair were talking to reporters before going into their first caucus.

Kaye mentioned that Goldsmith was Ngati Porou and that they had three Māori in their shadow cabinet: Goldsmith at No 5, Paula Bennett at No 13 and Shane Reti at No 17.

Muller then confirmed in answer to a question that Goldsmith was the only Māori in the party's top 12.

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Paul Goldsmith said while he had lots of relatives who were Māori – his great grandfather had European and Māori wives – he himself was not Māori.

"I make it quite clear. I am not Māori myself. The Goldsmith family have many connections to Ngāti Porou. My great, great grandfather had European wives and Māori wives so I've got lots of relatives across the Ngāti Porou but I don't claim to be Māori myself."

Asked why the leadership would be suggesting he reflected diversity on National's front bench, Goldsmith said: "Well that's for them to explain. In terms of the broader context, I have lots of Māori connections with my family, personally I'm not directly Māori."

Paula Bennett was also asked about the claim that Goldsmith was Māori.

"Paul? Okay. Right."

She said the leadership team she was part of had considered the need to have diversity on the front bench.

"But the new leadership team have chosen their top team and they're the ones who are answerable to it."

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National finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith. Photo / Mark Mitchell
National finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Asked if they had made the wrong choice, she said: "I've got no opinion. It's totally for the leadership.

"They're running the show now. They can answer to it ... I get to do a 'no comment'. It's kinda fun."

Former leader Simon Bridges and Bennett, his deputy, were the first Māori leader and deputy of Labour or National.

Muller said that from his perspective, he had a team of 55 MPs.

He appreciated that some would see his reshuffle yesterday from a perspective of the front bench and shadow cabinet.

"But I looked at it across the whole 55 and particularly those who I gave significant jobs to and the message I will be imparting shortly in my caucus room is they we collectively now have a huge job to do including across the caucus, they have significant roles and I will be looking as I come to a final conclusion post-September upon winning the election and pulling together a cabinet as to who I would like ultimately sitting around the table based on talent, workload, effort and capability."

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National leader Todd Muller. Photo/ Nick Perry / AP
National leader Todd Muller. Photo/ Nick Perry / AP

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, when asked about diversity on the National front bench said she tended not to make judgments on other party's line-ups.

"That's ultimately a call for voters…I'll be accountable for mine but I'll leave it to the Opposition to be accountable for theirs."

Speaking on RNZ this morning, third ranked Amy Adams pointed to Jo Hayes and Harete Hipango as well as Reti.

"We've certainly have got some incredibly talented Māori in our caucus. We've got Shane Reti in our shadow cabinet, we've got Jo Hayes, Harete Hipango, we've got a range of amazingly talented people coming through."

She said some of them had not been in Parliament long.

"But the beautiful thing about our caucus is I regard them as deeply talented right down to Number 55."

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Harete, the MP for Whanganui, is a first term MP. Reti, the MP for Whangarei since 2014, was promoted from No 28 under Bridges to No 17 under Muller.

Jo Hayes, a list MP since 2014, was ranked 33 under Bridges and is now No 37.