Shane Jones is planting 150 trees in his backyard. 999,999,850 to go

by Michele Hewitson / 31 May, 2018
Shane Jones. Photo/Hagen Hopkins

Shane Jones. Photo/Hagen Hopkins

RelatedArticlesModule - Shane Jones

New Zealand First politician Shane Jones talks to Michele Hewitson about the One Billion Trees programme and the three main challenges facing the country.

ori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta has said that the requirement to teach te reo in schools is a matter of “not if” but “when”. New Zealand First opposes the idea.

That seems an odd position for a “great orator” to take?

My knowledge of te reo is something I consider to be a taonga. However, as a professional politician, I’m required to have priorities. Going forward, the priorities I push as a member of New Zealand First are more focused on turning around the socio-economic fortunes of the average Māori family.

How can you justify not supporting the entrenchment of the Māori seats when you have previously stood in one of those seats?

It is true that both I and my leader, Winston Peters, have stood in Māori electorates. Our preference is always for a referendum on such matters, but I wouldn’t undervalue the number of New Zealand politicians who have Māori whakapapa. I offer no criticism of the current holders of our Māori seats. However, I believe the zest for enrolling on the Māori roll has diminished, because of the performance of the Māori Party when it held some of these electorates. It allowed the seats to become a political form of trinket to keep the last Government in power, a Government which had a negative impact on those whom I’m trying to represent.

What do you consider your most significant contribution to politics?

Without a doubt, my most significant contribution is becoming a Cabinet minister, along with Peters, and rolling out the One Billion Trees programme and the Provincial Growth Fund. While the road ahead won’t always be smooth, I believe these two policies will have a game-changing impact on our country.

What do you consider your greatest failure?

The ignominy associated with the blue movies/credit card episode tops the chart.

What do you see as the three biggest challenges facing New Zealand?

First, housing affordability: as it stands, thousands can look forward to a lifetime as tenants, which I believe destroys the New Zealand dream. Second, the economic transition associated with climate change, and convincing ordinary working-class Kiwis that it is a transition for which everyone will need to pay their fair share. Finally, few things can bring me to tears, but I find myself getting quite emotional when I’m confronted by the grinding poverty seen in some parts of this country. I did not come from a wealthy family, but for some of our least fortunate, I believe their prospects are worse than when I was growing up. That is why I’m so insistent on getting people into work and addressing the social ills that face us.

How many trees of those promised one billion have you planted so far?

I refer you to the tree counter we have just launched on the new Te Uru Rākau website, which will be updated weekly during the winter planting season. I have participated in a few ceremonial plantings so far, and have approximately 150 trees sitting in pots out the back of my house that I intend to plant during Matariki. I just have to ensure for the Government’s survival, and my own domestic bliss, that I don’t put my back out.

What is your response to National’s Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott’s accusation that the industry is still keenly awaiting the proposed National Forestry Strategy and that, “there are three big questions that need answers: Where are the seedlings coming from? Where are the trees going to be planted? And who is going to plant them?” Where are the seedlings coming from?

Commercial exotic forestry nurseries produce 50-60 million seedlings a year and have signalled their capacity to scale up production. Several of the large commercial nurseries have assured me that they would be able to double production.

In terms of native seedlings, the Government has invested in Minginui Nursery to scale up production and deliver forestry-grade seedlings for planting (1 million by 2020). Other native nurseries are also keen to increase production, and to participate in supply of seedlings to the One Billion Trees planting programme. Approximately 10 million native seedlings are currently produced by native nurseries.

Where are the trees going to be planted?

The programme will support a wide range of tree-planting – including riparian, biodiversity, permanent protection forests and commercial forestry on suitable land across New Zealand. We are working closely with regional councils, iwi and other stakeholders to ensure the right trees are planted in the right place for the right purpose.

Who is going to plant them?

Communities, landowners, commercial contractors (including forestry companies).

To read our political profile of Shane Jones, the master of the orotund and gnomic utterance who insists he's just a regular bloke, pick up a copy of the new Listener, on sale now.

This article was first published in the June 2, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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