'Ngati-redneck-ery': Shane Jones bites back at jeering 50 Shades of Green marchers

Shane Jones is hitting back at protesters speaking out against the Government's One Billion Trees programme over concerns good pastoral land is being sold for forestry.

Jones, the Forestry Minister, described the 50 Shades of Green marchers as "ngati-redneck-ery", seeming to suggest they're a tribe of rednecks. 

"Those attitudes, it's ngati-redneck-ery," Jones, a New Zealand First MP, told reporters in Parliament after being shouted down by hundreds of protesters outside alongside Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor. 

"If you want to influence policy and you want to work with the Government, then don't come in such a vitriolic, insulting way."

The minister had just returned from addressing the protesters, who held up signs saying "community before trees" and "support NZ farming". 

A spokesperson for Jones said a sign held up with an expletive remark is what made him upset and lash out at the crowd. 

Their concerns were highlighted recently when it was announced around 20,000 hectares of Hawke's Bay land is being sold to Japanese company Pan Pac Forest Products for forestry blocks. 

It sparked outrage from National MP Paul Goldsmith who said last month: "The mass conversion of land away from food production into trees will remove jobs from around the country, and will destroy communities throughout rural New Zealand."

Jones admitted the Government needs to find a balance. But he said the protesters were "antagonistic to what the Government is doing" and were "unwilling to acknowledge" that the National Party voted in favour of the Zero Carbon Bill. 

"Damien O'Connor and I are going to work out how we impede the spread of forestry onto genuinely productive land, and in that regard they're making a very good point," Jones said. 

"But look, I'm Matua Shane Jones - if you're going to shout over me you're never going to win, that's my message to anyone coming to Parliament."

Jones said it was "grossly unfair" of the protesters to attack the Government, adding, "If they think that I'm a punching bag on behalf of my leader, they're sadly mistaken.

"I don't think it's fair to demonise the forest sector," Jones added. "I come from a farm and farming's not going away... I just don't want people to catastrophise, but hey, these are Kiwis who have every right to bring their grievances."

Last month, Deputy Prime Minister and NZ First leader Winston Peters defended Minister for Land Information Eugenie Sage, for approving the sale of land to the Japanese company. 

"There is some marginal land in this country that would be more appropriate in forestry," he said in Parliament. 

His statement was in contrast to earlier comments by Jones, who told RNZ that month he was sympathetic to rural concerns that converting farm land to forestry could spark job losses. 

Associate Finance Minister David Clark, who signed off on the consent alongside Sage, said the deal would "support hundreds of jobs including in the high-value forestry area". 

50 Shades of Green group chair Andy Scott said, "If New Zealand First and indeed the Government really want to future proof our economy it should keep good New Zealand farmland for food production."

Peters said in Parliament the organisation was "just scaremongering". 

'Ngati-redneck-ery': Shane Jones bites back at jeering 50 Shades of Green marchers
Photo credit: Newshub

The protesters had prepared to roll a tractor into Parliament grounds as part of the protest, with the words "Farmers Have Had Enough" written on it, but National MP Hamish Walker told Newshub it was denied entry.

It's a tradition farmers have done that dates back to at least 1987, when then-Labour MP Bob Tizard drove a tractor up Parliament steps to draw attention to alternative fuels.

The tradition was repeated in 2003 in a protest against Labour's proposed "farts tax".