The Northland electorate is shaping up to be a major battleground in the upcoming election. Reporter Jenny Ling spent time with key candidates to uncover the person behind the politics. Today NZ First list MP Shane Jones shows off his cherished garden.
Shane Jones pulls into his driveway on the outskirts of Kerikeri a few moments after I do.
I'd just been wondering if this was the right house, having knocked on the front door to no avail.
Jones dishes out directions to park on the grass while talking on his cell phone then I follow him round the back.
He's been out hand delivering NZ First pamphlets in Waipapa and Kerikeri. Recently it was Opua and Paihia along with Mangonui, Cable Bay and Taipa.
The front door is no longer used after an over-exuberant mokopuna with a hard ball cracked the lead light glass, he explains. Now it's strictly out of bounds.
• Northland shaping up as 'must-win' seat of 2020 election
• Election 2020: NZ First's Shane Jones tells Northland - give me your votes and I'll bring you recovery
• Election 2020: Winston Peters hits back on poor Northland poll result for NZ First
• Northland news in brief: Meet the candidates, roads all open
Inside the fire is going, and as Jones makes the tea, he invites a peek at the "rogue's gallery" down the hallway.
On the walls are framed photographs of Jones in various settings, including playing cricket, doing a haka for the parliamentary rugby team in France, and family portraits.
There's also a framed taiaha, a whānau heirloom that's "at least as old as the Treaty".
Then Jones gets down to business, outlining his Māori tribal links to Te Aupōuri, Ngāi Takoto, and his marae, Māhimaru.
"There's a saying from that marae, Mahi maru mai, mahi maru atu, ngohengohe ana," he said.
"It's an old Māori proverb which means 'working together creates a pleasant outcome'."
Which is, he adds, "an elusive saying in politics".
This is going well, I think, the words are flowing out of Jones like water from a tap.
He's almost interviewing himself.
Then again, the Awanui-raised, NZ First list MP is renowned for his way with words, his use of florid language, his gift of the gab.
This is a man with such a talent for reading and speaking he's been dubbed the Cryptic Crossword.
During his education at St Stephen's School in Bombay, where he was a boarder, he won the prize for Māori oratory and first prize for English.
He studied economics and politics at the University of Auckland, gaining a BA, then completed a post grad in political philosophy at the University of Western Australia.
He also has a masters of public administration from prestigious Harvard University earned on a Harkness Fellowship, and can speak te reo Māori "like I speak English".
A Labour MP from 2005 to 2014 and former Pacific Economic Ambassador, Jones has a long history of involvement in the New Zealand fisheries sector.
He has been a NZ First list MP since 2017 and is currently the minister for forestry, infrastructure and regional economic development, responsible for the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund.
Contesting the Northland electorate fits well with Jones who admits campaigning for the Whangarei seat in 2017 was a "lonely and challenging role".
"I literally lived in Whangarei for four months in a friend's double garage.
"There was no luxury staying in Whangarei but at the time felt I was asking people to vote for NZ First and back me as a candidate and so I needed to be embedded in that community."
Jones was born in the Kaitaia hospital, and along with his Māori whakapapa, also has Croatian ancestry.
On the subject of family, I ask about "the nephs" he frequently refers to.
First, he wanted them to get off the couch, and they were called upon again when devastating floods hit the region back in July.
"They're the wayward ones, it's a figurative term for loafers. Older Māori folk used it," he said.
Turns out Jones has lots of nephews in the literal sense, being from the "huge Jones clan from Awanui".
His grandmother was one of 13 children, his dad one of 17, and Jones is the oldest of six.
Growing up on a farm, and later owning one with his brother, has added to his understanding of rural life, he said.
"If you were to put me in a blender, it's obvious, I genuinely understand rural life.
"I grew up riding horses and wrecking farm machinery."
Jones' wife Dot pops into the kitchen wearing a Jones for Jobs T-shirt.
The couple married in Rarotonga in January 2018.
Between them they've got eight tamariki and 12 mokopuna.
They live in a beautiful five-bedroom villa that was moved from Mt Albert around 2007, and the couple moved in six years later.
It's where Jones hosts his famous pre-Waitangi Day parties, an annual event attracting politicians, business people, diplomats, public servants, iwi leaders and media.
Over 300 people have turned up each year since 2012.
"Feeding, entertaining and lubricating 330 people is not an inexpensive exercise," Jones said.
"Annette King, when I was with Labour, suggested it because I had this place with a big section.
"It started with Labour, and Winston Peters was always there, and we have lots of kai moana.
"I encouraged Dot to keep the hospitality going, it's a good opportunity for locals to meet parliamentarians and there's no shortage of kaimahi."
Jones recently turned 61, but his birthday was a low-key affair, unlike the big bash he had for his 60th which saw 150 people turn up for dinner.
"Covid knocked that on the head," he said.
"Now I'm 61 I'm a lot more chilled out.
"I'm no longer racing around trying to knock off every peak in front of me."
In his downtime, Jones enjoys reading a mix of escapism, New Zealand history and international affairs, along with the mandatory work-related documents.
He used to enjoy fishing and long treks but doesn't have the time anymore.
He now loves to get outside in the garden to tend his flowers and veggies.
During lockdown he brought several trailer-loads of cow manure home and applied it to the garden, which is now flourishing.
Though he grumbles: "I'm constantly weeding because the kikuyu grass is like a herbal cancer".
He also doesn't like sharing it with Dot's six chickens and several roosters, which "put themselves outside our bedroom window and crow to make sure we're up at 6am to feed them".
"When I grew up troublesome roosters like that ended up in the hangi."
But it's dahlias that give Jones the greatest joy; his mum used to grow them in Awanui.
"From what I've been told I'm unnecessarily combative, too garrulous, and don't shy away from a good verbal rumble," he said.
"I should imagine people would be surprised to know I sincerely love gardening and I genuinely love growing flowers.
"I take a lot of joy growing my dahlias, they're bright and sunny.
"Sadly, they don't bloom for long, and I only hope that experience is not an analogy of what remains of my political career."