Shane Jones accused of interfering in matter before the courts

Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 3 Apr 2019, 6:43PM

Shane Jones accused of interfering in matter before the courts

Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 3 Apr 2019, 6:43PM

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says he is entitled to talk about challenges in the regions, after criticisms that he was wading into a matter before the courts.

This follows National's Paul Goldsmith saying Jones had "serious questions" he needed to answer about his recent comments.

Speaking to the Herald, Jones yesterday said he was "concerned about the economic implications flowing from issues between the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) and Semenoff Logging."

His remarks followed a High Court decision last Monday where the transporter won temporary suspension of a ban on its licence.

On March 15, NZTA revoked Semenoff's transport services licence over a range of safety issues, due to take effect on March 22.

But on March 20, the business of ex-Whangarei mayor Stan Semenoff hit back and sought a temporary stay on that licence ban, although the case is yet to go to a full hearing.

Goldsmith said it was "constitutionally inappropriate for any minister to wade in on a matter before the courts".

Act Leader David Seymour said Jones' conduct falls short of the expectations for Ministers to behave in a way that upholds the "highest ethical standards".

In the House today, Jones said he won't "comment further" on the case.

But he continued: "The principles of comity and privilege are important constitutional privileges that define our system, but there is no stone that should be put upon the tongue of the champion of the regions to talk about the implications of decisions that our Government may, from time to time, be held accountable for."

Speaking to reporters after he left the House, he elaborated.

"Obviously, I'm entitled to continue to talk about challenges in the regions. I specifically said I was not commenting on that court case."

He said his focus was on the issues – in this case, "the supply chain impact in the North in the Forestry and logging".

"I have not commented on anything to do with the innards of that court case, although the judicial review is still to happen, this was an injunction or something like that.

"It's important that we don't embroil ourselves in court cases. There is no court case at this stage, because it hasn't begun."

He said his comments were not made with his Associate Minister of Transport hat on – "I made those remarks as the Minister of Regional Economic Development".

Jones said he had had a "brief" discussion with NZTA's chief executive.

"I have not raised this matter with my fellow transport Ministers, and I have had one discussion—very brief—with the CEO of the NZTA," he said in response to a question from Goldsmith, in the House.

But, outside the House, he said the conversation was not about Semenoff.

"He knows that I did not discuss the innards of this court case. It had to do with another statement that Meredith Connell had made in the newspaper."

Jones did say he was related to Semenoff.

"We do have a common tūpuna (ancestors) the Seminoff whanau, they are white Russians, we are Dalmatian Maoris.

"And I think you will find it's about five generations ago."

In the House, Jones said that during the 2008 election, he received a $2000 donation from Semenoff, which he declared in 2009.

"Stan Semenoff's great-great-grandmother is my mother's great-great-great-grandmother," Jones said.