National calls for investigation into Shane Jones' dealings with forestry company

The National Party is calling for a high-level investigation into Minister Shane Jones' dealings with a New Zealand First-linked company and its application for Government money.

Jones insists it was all above board and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has gone further, saying an investigation would be the most extraordinary thing in the history of western democracy.

National has started the year off right where 2019 ended, with Jones' handling of a Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) application by Future Forest Products.

"When it comes to public money and the dispersal of public money he needs to be a lot more straight-up," National MP Chris Bishop says.

"We want to see an inquiry into this whole messy, murky affair."

Future Forest applied for $15 million of funding in April. Its recently released application shows the company had made a "presentation" to Jones before then - but Jones told Parliament he hadn't heard of them until October, when he declared a conflict of interest.

"I had no idea of the existence of such a company," he said.

Bishop says it's now known that's misleading - however Jones maintains it's true.

"I have never met with NZ Future Forests. Never," he insists.

However, he did meet with the company's managing director, David Henry.

"He never made a presentation to me about his provincial growth kaupapa," Jones says.

"I have met with him and his father and a host of other people to talk generally about forestry."

Concerns over Jones' dealings stem from the close ties between New Zealand First and Future Forest.

One director, Brian Henry, is a close friend of and lawyer to Peters - another is Peters' partner, Jan Trotman.

It was a sensitive topic when initially raised with New Zealand First last year, with Peters calling one Newshub reporter a "psycho".

No stranger to exaggeration, Peters is again defending Jones.

"They're calling for the most extraordinary thing in the history of western democracy and that is a full-scale inquiry into an application that failed," he says.

Yet Peters has a point. Despite Future Forests' application, the company wasn't granted PGF money. On the other hand, National calling for an inquiry is hardly extraordinary. When a business is so closely linked to New Zealand First's asking for Government funding, that deserves close scrutiny.