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Intemperance is in the air

When Shane Jones next runs his workshop on “How to Use Inflammatory Language to Make Your Toes Curl”, I’m signing up.

Readers of my previous columns will know that I’m no fan of Jones.

But as I listened to him engaging in a verbal waltz with Corin Dan on RNZ’s Morning Report programme yesterday morning, I was discomforted to discover myself enjoying his latest jowl-trembling bombast.

He was being interviewed about the draft Minerals Mining Strategy for New Zealand to 2040, which is open to consultation until July 31.

The strategy, led by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment [MBIE], aims to double the mineral sector’s export value to $2 billion by 2035.

Deriving any measure of pleasure from the interview involved, for me, at least, some attempt at low-level disassociation: I just tried to focus on his words, not my blood pressure.

Some of Jones’ most full-bodied language was delivered when discussing his thirst to open up stewardship land to mining opportunities.

After his insistent denial that “stewardship land” is Department of Conservation [DoC] land [it is, and was allocated to DoC when it was formed in 1987], my next favourite bit was this: “That land in many cases is overrun and riddled by rats, weasels, and feral creatures – many of whom have two legs.”

Jones didn’t elaborate on the bipedal subset of pest species, but he did also use the word “riddled” in relation to the very stuff – the mineral “goods” he is so eager to “extract”, so to speak – that might be stuffed in Mother Nature’s folds, cracks, and crevices.

As he verbally ripped more meat off the bone, he managed to make both conservation led by “Green cultists” and mineral extraction championed by homegrown capitalists sound unseemly.

Quite a feat.

He’s not the only one to go for the throat when it comes to language, lately. Intemperance is in the air.

Most recently, Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March raised eyebrows when he dropped the F-bomb in parliament.

Te Pati Maori MP Mariameno Kapa-Kingi’s accusations that the government’s policy changes are effectively trying to “exterminate Māori” have resulted in calls for debate to “calm down”.

Julie Anne Genter overstepped the mark when she got right up in National MP Matt Doocey’s grill shouting, “Read the report!”

But there is something chilling about Jones’ ability to blend absolutism with newly minted, almost homely proverbs when he steps on the oratorical gas.

Take this example, said towards the end of his RNZ interview: “There are going to be trade-offs. I don’t think New Zealanders should walk away from the fact that we are going to have to recalibrate the ideological preferences of the Green Party to lock everything up.

“But, you know, if you’re poor in paradise, mate, you are going to be poor forever.”

I’ve no doubt that Jones, as the foreword to his minerals strategy said, wants “New Zealand to be part of the solution” and for Aotearoa to “contribute to secure, resilient, and sustainable global minerals supply chains.”

But with his hearty commitment to “trade-offs”, can we ever be sure “the environmental impacts of mining can and will be managed to the highest standard”?


  1. Land may have been allocated to DOC but it is not in their ownership. It is ‘public land’ and and asset belonging to all New Zealanders. DOC stewardship has been variable over time but public access and utilisation is and has been consistently tempered by in-house dictates linked to their inherent sense of ownership..

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