It’s safe to say that Shane Jones knows how to make a public statement, particularly a bold one.
He’s the Regional Development Minister, for one, and his involvement with highly publicised coalition initiatives has prompted everyone from National MPs to journalists to weigh in on his words and decisions.
With initiatives spanning from the lauded Billion Tree programme and a multi-billion dollar Provincial Growth Fund, Mr Jones routinely gets a crowd whenever he speaks about his opinions or policies.
So when Drive hosts Ryan Bridge and Lisa Owen saw the NZ First MP near the studio, they took the chance to spontaneously bring him into the studio for a good, old-fashioned on-air Q&A.
Mr Jones joined Drive to discuss everything from politicians, waka-jumping, and his aptness for speaking dauntlessly.
Planting one billion trees
The Government has set its sights high, with its goal to plant one billion trees over the next 10 years through 2027.
“Ceremonially, I myself have planted 100 trees,” he said. “However it’s a long way to go to my billion figure.”
While Mr Jones will set aside up to $180 million of his $3 billion fund to help reach the billion tree figure, he warned that it will take some time for the programme to get going.
“Come on, give us a break,” he said. “The planting season just started in April and May…”
Mr Jones told RadioLIVE that he’s good to plant 20-30 million trees, predominately Manuka trees, within the year.
Labour’s Electoral (Integrity) Bill, commonly known as the waka-jumping bill, has passed its first reading.
If accepted by Parliament, the controversial Bill would address MPs who quit or get expelled from their party by ejecting them from Parliament.
National MP Nick Smith has recently slammed the bill because the public has expressed opposition to the concept.
Mr Jones told RadioLIVE that Nick Smith is “making hay out of it”.
“Nick Smith is all wound up about it, but he’s a brittle personality,” Mr Jones said.
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Former Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons has also called out the bill, stating that it should be up to voters to decide who should be in Parliament, not MPs.
But Mr Jones rejects Ms Fitsimons’ statement.
“Why has she got an opinion?” Mr Jones asked rhetorically.
“She’s trying to, in my view, disrupt a commitment that her party realises is very important. Yes, she’s a member of the public, but I don’t want to hear from her.
“We are going to have this bill and this bill is important.”
“I’m a professional politician, listeners,” Mr Jones said into the microphone with a smile.
“And to be a successful and professional politician, you abide by your agreements. And we have an agreement to make the Government a success."
Mr Jones then admits that his approach to politics may be a bit bolder than his colleagues’.
“Some of the issues that I push, I push them with more boldness perhaps than other politicians in the coalition would like. But it is what it is.”
The NZ First MP is likely referring to his comments on divisive issues, like giving ministers more control over the public sector and his criticism against Air New Zealand for pulling regional routes from around the country.
“This business when you’re a minority party, you need to create a level of visibility without being too reckless…”
Provincial Growth Fund
In February, Mr Jones and the Prime Minister kicked off a $3 billion investment fund to provide grant funding for regions like Hawke’s Bay and Northland.
But Mr Jones confessed that he wants to become more hands-on in his involvement with the fund.
“Just because I issue edicts and instructions out of my office, often that’s inversely related to what actually happens in terms of pace.”
When Drive host Lisa Owen asked whether the regions and sectors he’s chosen to fund would pan out successfully, Mr Jones admits that it’s like a rose in that “there’s always going to be a few pricks”.
“I don’t believe I know of any other dramas but hey, when you’re working with local government, working with businesses, we can be diligent and vigilant and as much as we like…
“But we’re always going to get a few curly ones, like a pig’s tail come out of the bush.”
Listen to the full interview with Shane Jones above.