Kiritapu Allan has called out the "tokenistic" use of te reo Māori at the Department of Conservation, for which she was recently minister.
A screenshot of an internal email was shared on social media from a DoC manager who said they were passing on "feedback this week from the minister's office about inclusion of te reo Māori in the material that we send over".
Allan has since called the email an "incorrect articulation".
According to the manager, the minister - at the time Allan - did not want to see te reo used apart from when there was no English equivalent, the whole document was in te reo, and in greetings and sign-offs - which must be in te reo.
Allan was quick to reply on social media, saying the email is "an incorrect articulation of any direction I've provided and is absolutely inaccurate".
"I encourage te reo use but in no way will I tolerate tokenistic use of reo by govt agencies as an attempt to show govt depts are culturally competent."
Allan's office has not responded to Herald requests for an interview.
The Herald asked DoC for an explanation and an interview but received only a short statement from government services director Lucy Alcock in response.
"Minister Allan was concerned that DoC's use of māori [sic] language could read as cultural appropriation or tokenism.
"She was also concerned at inappropriate use of terms.
"The internal email did not adequately explain the minister's position or concerns.
"DoC is committed to being a good treaty partner, including improving our use of te reo."
Allan on Monday was moved out of her conservation portfolio to allow her to take on justice, after the announced departure of Kris Faafoi.