'His language should be tighter': Shane Jones gets telling off from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

Regional Economic Minister Shane Jones has been told off by the Prime Minister for comments he made in a speech to the forestry industry in Northland. 

Jones, also Minister for Forestry, delivered a speech at the Northland Forestry Awards in Whangārei earlier this month and was accused of trying to bribe attendees into voting for his party New Zealand First. 

An attendee at the event told NZME Jones "hijacked" the event for votes by suggesting his support for forestry would continue to be a priority in government with New Zealand First in power. 

Jones told NZME he "didn't resile one minute" from the accusations guests made about what he said to the crowd. His office told Newshub he had no further comment. 

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she had spoken to Jones - a list MP for New Zealand First based in Kerikeri - about the comments he made. 

"Minister Jones is about to take a short break over the [two-week Parliament] recess and we've agreed that he'll take the Cabinet manual with him," Ardern said at her post-Cabinet press conference. 

The Cabinet manual states that ministers are responsible for ensuring that no conflict exists or appears to exist between their personal interests and their public duty. 

"It's an acknowledgement that his language should be much tighter, particularly when it could be misconstrued that he could be speaking as a minister," the Prime Minister said. 

Ardern delivered some of her comments in front of Jones as he had joined her alongside Finance Minister Grant Robertson for the announcement of regional banking hubs

'His language should be tighter': Shane Jones gets telling off from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Photo credit: Newshub

Last year Jones launched the One Billion Trees Fund - financed from the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) - described as a "crucial step" toward achieving the goal of planting at least one billion trees by 2028.

It provides $118 million for accessible grants to landowners and organisations looking to plant trees. It also provides $120 million for partnership projects that aim to reduce the barriers to tree planting.  

ACT leader David Seymour said it is "almost expected to hear Jones asking for votes" in return for money from the PGF he leads and the projects under it. 

"It shows how far the standards of pork-barrel politics have slipped under this Government," Seymour said. 

He said the Prime Minister "needs to stamp her authority on this Government by telling Shane Jones to pull his head in". 

Ardern said her expectation is that the kind of language Jones used at the event "isn't appropriate, particularly when you're at a function where those in attendance will believe he is there as a minister". 

She said she was "making the point that I have an expectation, that although some might argue it was or it wasn't, my view is that it just sails too close to the wind". 

It isn't the first time the Prime Minister has given Jones a public telling off. Earlier this year she made it clear she thought Jones was in the wrong for appearing to question the integrity of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). 

Ardern was also forced to reprimand Defence Minister and New Zealand First MP Ron Mark earlier this year after he seemingly pitched for votes at an event he attended as a minister.