Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples has admitted it was irresponsible to say homeless people in Christchurch should squat in abandoned red zone houses.
But although he intends apologising to Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, he says it was "ethically and morally right" to make the suggestion.
Dr Sharples was in Christchurch on Wednesday meeting members of his Maori Party who have been helping earthquake victims when he spoke to a local newspaper reporter.
His comment earned a rebuke from Mr Brownlee, who said it was "completely out of order".
Dr Sharples says he was shocked by the conditions some people were living under.
"A blind couple living in a garage, another lady living in a car ... I said if there are houses that aren't dangerous they should squat in them rather than die in a car," he told reporters on Thursday.
"It was an irresponsible comment as a minister, and I was speaking in my capacity as a minister, but as the leader of the Maori Party I meant every word," he said.
"I stand by that - it was the ethical and moral thing to say."
Dr Sharples says he's been trying to get hold of Mr Brownlee for making the comment in a ministerial capacity.