Shane Jones is concerned about donors to New Zealand First being "depicted as some type of leper" as new revelations emerge about donations to the New Zealand First Foundation.
The NZ First MP said he is "genuinely not aware" of the functioning of the NZ First Foundation, which is currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) over allegations it's been hiding donations for the party.
Jones said he's worried about a "clear agenda" designed to "spook and quite frankly stigmatise industries" that New Zealand First relies on for support as a political party.
The Electoral Commission announced earlier this month that following an investigation it found the NZ First Foundation had "received donations which should have been treated as party donations for the New Zealand First Party".
The Electoral Commission referred the matter to police who then referred it to the SFO which confirmed this month that an investigation had been launched.
Jones, a Cabinet minister, said he "accepts that there is a statutory process in place".
He told Newshub: "I genuinely feel as an MP that people who think that I represent a force for good in New Zealand politics and the economy... I'm very concerned that they may be depicted as some type of leper."
He was referring to NZ First Foundation financial records obtained by RNZ, which purportedly show undeclared donations to the foundation from some of New Zealand's wealthiest people, including companies controlled by Graeme Hart.
The latest revelation from RNZ is that the NZ First Foundation received $26,950 in undeclared donations from seafood giant Talley's between 2017 and 2019.
Greenpeace is now urging Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to launch an external review into fishing-related decisions made by the Government, suggesting the donations could be buying Cabinet influence.
But the Prime Minister pointed out that Labour MP Stuart Nash is the Fisheries Minister, not Jones, when she was asked to respond to the latest NZ First revelations.
"There is a reason New Zealand is number one in Transparency International's ranking around the way that we conduct ourselves as a nation and I include politics in that," Ardern said.
"That is not to say that we can't continue to make sure that we uphold the confidence of New Zealanders in our electoral laws."
Jones does have a history of involvement in the fisheries sector, having chaired Te Ohu Kaimoana - the Māori Fisheries Commission - and seafood company Sealord.
The Minister for Regional Economic Development said he has nothing to hide, pointing to a donation he received from Talley's in 2017 for $10,000 which was declared in his electorate candidate donation expenses form.
"It's a matter of public record that over the course of various elections I have received donations from the fishing industry," Jones told Newshub.
"My role of advocacy for fishing, the red meat industry, for the mining industry – it's an open book... I will never shirk or shy away from standing up for industry."