'Garden variety Kiwis' don't care about logging case - Shane Jones

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says everyday Kiwis don't care about National's calls for him to resign.

Jones has been accused of interfering in a High Court case involving a Northland logging company, by discussing the matter with the chief executive of the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA).

Stan Semenoff Logging was ordered to stop operating in March over safety concerns, but its trucks are still on the road after successfully challenging the NZTA's decision in court.

Jones, who is also Associate Transport Minister, told Newshub Nation on Saturday he did call the NZTA boss, but the specific case was not discussed.

"Just because I raise an issue about the essential importance of logistics supply chains, doesn't mean that I'm involved in the High Court case," he told Newshub political editor Tova O'Brien.

Jones is related to the company's director, and once received a donation from him. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told NZME earlier this week Jones should "act with caution when it's generally cases that could be seen as having influence attached with them".

Shane Jones.
Shane Jones. Photo credit: Newshub Nation.

National economic development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith on Thursday said Jones' conversations with NZTA "can only be construed as an attempt to influence the decision-making", and he should resign.

"Jones has confirmed in the House that he spoke to NZTA's chief executive about the decisions and methods of the Semenoff prosecution. He told Newstalk ZB that he asked the NZTA chief for 'clarification as to why [NZTA] have been offering immunity and amnesty for Filipino truck drivers to, arguably, spy on New Zealand-owned businesses'.

"Today he accepted in the House that some of those 'Filipino truck drivers' no doubt worked for Semenoff Logging."

Jones said he has not offered the Prime Minister his resignation.

"She, I believe, realises that from time-to-time there might be a bit of bump and grind, and she's well within her rights to caution me to ensure that I don't represent an unwelcome distraction to the overarching narrative of the Government. I don't believe I do. In fact, where I go I'm met with popular acclamation," he claimed.

"People misapprehend what my role is. My role is to isolate those issues that time-to time-thwart and undermine regional development. As try as much as the Tories might to brand me as someone breaking High Court rules, the reality is I am a feasty, earthy, industrial-grade retail politician. That's what the people expect of me… not one single garden variety Kiwi has raised this with me as being a problem."

And he said he wouldn't stop talking about issues that affect the regions.

"You should not expect me to shut up, just because I say things that may make the windy bureaucrats feel a bit nervous, in actual fact that makes me more popular."

He said National's accusations of interference amounted to little more than "non-credible memes".