Revealed: Shane Jones' Provincial Growth Fund officials spent more than $1 million on travel in 2019

Newshub can reveal Shane Jones' Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) officials spent more than $1 million jetting around the country in 2019.

And after Newshub asked questions, Jones demanded his officials rein it in - all on his first day back at Parliament since he himself earned a stern talking to from the Prime Minister over controversial comments he made about Indians.

Figures obtained by Newshub show over the course of a year, Provincial Development Unit officials spent $844,63 on flights and a further $187,389 on accommodation and expenses.

The expenses total more than $1 million.

"A million dollars is a huge amount of money to garden variety Kiwis," the Regional Economic Development Minister told Newshub.

Compare that with how much ministers spent on domestic flights and accommodation outside Wellington over the past year - $1.2 million - just a fraction more than Jones' 116 officials.

"I think most people will find it outrageous," said National MP Chris Bishop, the Opposition's regional economic development spokesperson.

Jones argued that he doesn't sign-off on every trip and that it's his officials that make those decisions. The minister confirmed he's reined his staff in and demanded they justify the expenses.

Bishop said the officials "would probably pay no attention to [Jones] because he himself is totally profligate with taxpayer money".

Jones, a New Zealand First MP, is back at Parliament after a week away, during which he was condemned by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for comments he made about Indian students.

Jones told Newshub Nation last month that the "number of students that have come from India have ruined" New Zealand universities.

"Everyone comes here from New Delhi - I don't like that idea at all."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern blasted Jones' remarks in an interview with the Indian Weekender last week, saying: "I have condemned in the strongest way possible, these comments, on this occasion."

But Jones is still not backing down, telling Newshub what he said "doesn't make me a racialist".

And now Jones is facing unlikely criticism from close quarters, called out in a debate last night by his New Zealand First colleague Tracey Martin.

"Shane Jones was wrong," she said during a University of Auckland debate.

She went on to describe Jones' comments as "inappropriate and wrong" and that it was "unhelpful to pick on a group of people rather than picking on an issue".

Jones responded, "I speak with the full authority of the caucus on the matter of population policy."