Shane Jones is one of Parliament's characters. He throws one of the biggest parties on the political calendar each year around Waitangi and people from across the House scramble for an invitation.
His hospitality, humour, loquaciousness and sheer originality have earned him significant reservoir of goodwill.
But that goodwill is seeping away since he has returned to Parliament as a New Zealand First minister – and not just from the Opposition.
It is his own colleagues in Government who sigh when the Jones name is mentioned these days. He spells trouble, often in double-doses, and he has become a headache for Coalition management.
His roll call of "misdemeanours" has continued to mount up in the past 18 months since he was appointed Regional Economic Development Minister in charge of the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund.
Jones is not in sole charge. For grants between $1 million and $20m he and fellow ministers Grant Robertson, David Parker and Phil Twyford decide. Grants over $20m must get Cabinet approval.
Over Easter another case came to light via Newsroom that raised eyebrows – the case of a proposed $15m investment into a regional airline that had not even applied for a grant - and which was quashed last year by Treasury and Ministry of Transport concerns.
But one misdemeanour in particular, not actually involving a grant, is more serious than the others and is attracting a great deal of attention by National's shadow minister economic development, Paul Goldsmith.
He was pursuing the case in Parliament with vigour before the Easter break and is resuming it again now the House is back.
It involves Jones' communication with the New Zealand Transport Agency which was - and still is - in the midst of legal action in a bid to revoke the transport licence of Northland transport company Stan Semenoff Logging Ltd, SSLL, on the grounds of safety issues.
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SSLL is run by another character from the north, former Whangarei mayor Stan Semenoff.
Semenoff is a former political donor – he gave Jones $2000 for his campaign in 2008 when Jones was a Labour MP. Those connections are less important than the fact that Jones is also Associate Transport Minister.
Jones received briefings as Associate Transport Minister about the case and then sought to find out more background from the NZTA interim chief executive, Mark Ratcliffe, saying later that he did so as Regional Development Minister and out of concern for the economic implications of the case.
Semenoff according to court documents is the largest logging haulage company in Northland and is responsible for 50 per cent of Northland's wood flow and log haulage.
Its sole business involves transporting logs from the forest to the port in Northland.
It employs about 55 people, 48 of whom are drivers, and has a fleet of 55 vehicles and contracts with over 25 companies throughout Northland.
But NZTA wanted it off the road on safety grounds.
And Goldsmith said that Jones conversations with NZTA about the case amounted to interference and a clear breach of the Cabinet manual.
"It is in clear breach of the Cabinet manual to the extent to which he interposed himself into what is a prosecution decision for an independent agency.
"It was very much alive."
Of the long roll call of Jones' controversies this term says Goldsmith "this is clearly the most serious".
What irked Jones enough to contact the NZTA was the suggestion from lawyer Steve Haszard that some drivers would be offered immunity from their own offences if they came forward to talk to NZTA.
Jones said he wanted to know on what authority that was being offered. He denied discussing the prosecution decision with the chief executive of NZTA.
In Parliament on April 4 Jones characterised it as wanting to find out why Filipino truck drivers were being offered immunity and amnesty to "spy on New Zealand-owned businesses".
The following week in Parliament, and just before the Easter break, Jones acknowledged that some of those Filipino drivers might have worked for Semenoffs, although he no longer called it "spying".
He had wanted to know under what authority the Filipino workers had been offered inducements by Crown prosecutors "to begin acting as pimps".
It appeared to those closely observing the unfolding case to be an admission that what lay behind Jones' questions to NZTA were the drivers who were helping the agency with their prosecution of Semenoffs.
Goldsmith: "That to me is a slam dunk case of interfering and is incredibly significant.
"The concern for me is first that Jones doesn't understand what the appropriate role of a minister is and the appropriate boundaries, and second that it seems to be a new standard of what is acceptable in Government."
Goldsmith has – through official questions – turned up another meeting Jones had with the chief executive of Semenoffs Logging, Daron Turner, who is named in NZTA's legal notice to revoke the company's transport services licence.
The meeting between Turner and Jones was held 12 days after Semenoffs had received NZTA's notice proposing the revocation of its licence.
It was not in the usual disclosures of meetings Jones provided under the Official Information Act. His staff had inadvertently omitted 61 meetings from OIA response, that one included, and it was disclosed in November when the record was corrected.
It's potential relevance, however, was not realised until the NZTA action against Semenoffs was revealed in March this year.
Because the ministers had been told there was some kind of prosecution under way,
Goldsmith said that given that Jones knew about the legal action against Semenoff, he would have expected Jones to have been extra cautious about any interaction with the company.
"Certainly you would ordinarily expect to have officials with you and notes taken and a very clear agenda rather than an informal get-together."
Prime Minister Ardern has unequivocally criticised Jones' ministerial behaviour twice: the first time last year when he barrelled into the Air New Zealand Board chairman, Tony Carter; and this year over the contact he made with NZTA about matters related to the Semenoff case.
"My view is that we need to act with caution when it's generally cases that could be seen as having influence attached with them… This is a case where he shouldn't have made any comments," she told Newstalk ZB on April 9.
"I have talked to him about this. There are situations where comments shouldn't be made and this is one of them."
Jones has acknowledged the reprimand from Ardern but also gave every indication he would continue when he wanted to.
"I take very seriously what the Prime Minister says but the Prime Minister also realises that there has never been a consistently loud, focused voice from the regions and provinces," he told Newshub's The Nation on April 13.
"She, I believe, realises from time to time there may be a 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."
Goldsmith has been back on the case this week and Jones continues to maintain that there was nothing untoward in either the approach to NZTA about Filipino drivers or about the meeting with Turner.
"It is completely within my rights as the regional champion to draw to the attention the wisdom of using migrant labour up and down New Zealand's transport freight sector and encouraging them to act in a way that I have informally regarded as pimps but now I call informants," Jones told Parliament this week.
Goldsmith: "Why did the Minister meet Daron Turner, the GM of Semenoff Logging Ltd, on August 12, 2018, just 11 days after NZTA briefed ministers on its intentions to revoke Semenoff Logging Ltd Transport Services Licence and what did he say?
Jones: "Obviously as the first citizen of the provinces I meet regularly with leaders of New Zealand industry and [at] a number of those meetings occasionally I don a ministerial cap and other times I am enrobed in my New Zealand First cloak made of duck feather."
Jones later told the Herald that he had never once inserted himself into the Semenoff prosecution.
He said he does not have any recollection of being told about the notice to revoke Semenoff's transport licence when he met Turner.
"I meet with who I like…some is of a constitutional nature and some is of a political nature and I'm not going to stop doing that. "
The Prime Minister was entitled to criticise him: "She can do what she liked."
"I am a member of New Zealand First. Whether or not other parliamentarians like it or not, I have cast myself as a retail politician because a lot of these passing anxieties will be irrelevant if we don't defeat history and gain 5 per cent again.
"That is the only thing that motivates me. That's what a retail politician does. And if sometimes it makes me look like an outsider, then I can assure you, the gallery comprised of provincial voters love it. I accept, however, it does lead to noises of disgruntlement and disapproval from the Featherston St purists of governance.
"I am not [former Maori Party co-leader] Te Ururoa Flavell who forgot to be a politician and focused on being a minister and is now extinct."
Jones' commitment to raise his personal profile as "the champion of the regions" puts Ardern in a difficult position.
She must be mindful of the fact that New Zealand First put Labour into power but also mindful that wilful disregard of her concerns by him make her look weak.
But he is not only not a Labour MP now but he is the heir apparent to New Zealand First leader Winston Peters who will be 74 at the next election.
Ardern will also be mindful that the most similar case to Jones was that of former Pakuranga MP Maurice Williamson who was forced to resign his ministerial position in 2014 for intervening in a police inquiry.
Williamson contacted a top-ranking police officer after a wealthy businessman with close ties to him was arrested on domestic violence charges.
Prime Minister John Key said at the time that Williamson has assured him that he did not in any way intend to influence the Police investigation.
"However, Mr Williamson's decision to discuss the investigation with Police was a significant error of judgment.
"The independence of Police investigations is a fundamental part of our country's legal framework.
"Mr Williamson's actions have been very unwise as they have the potential to bring that independence into question."
It may be a cautionary tale for Jones: Williamson was one of Parliament's biggest characters, but in the end it didn't save him.
THE SHANE JONES TROUBLE FILE
- Jones talks to NZ Transport Agency about inducements to gain evidence from Filipino drivers on safety concerns – the heart of the NZTA legal action against Semenoff Logging. (Late March)
WHITEWASH TALK - Jones impugns SFO inquiry into National Party donations, telling Parliament he and Winston Peters "will study every single step they take to ensure, because it's the National Party, it is not whitewashed". (13 March 2019)
HOW MANY JOBS? - Jones faces questions over record showing 54 jobs have been created from the Provincial Growth Fund when he told Parliament in December it was 9000. (February 2019)
CONFLICT OF INTEREST - Having declared a personal interest in the Manea Footprints of Kupe project in November 2017 because he had been involved in early planning of the cultural museum before he was a minister, he participated in a ministerial meeting which granted it $4.6 million. ( February 2018)
CORRECTIONS – Jones has to correct 20 written parliamentary answers for failing to disclose 61 meetings as a minister. (November 11, 2018)
PINE GAP - Faces criticism over 400,000 pine seedlings of 1.2 million being mulched because they were over-ordered by MPI for Ngati Hine in Northland, costing the taxpayer $160,000. (November 2018)
FONTERRA OFFENSIVE - Launches stinging attack on Fonterra at Fieldays speech and says chairman John Wilson should follow departing CEO Theo Spierings. (Wilson later resigned for health reasons and died). (June 2018)
AIR NZ OFFENSIVE - Suggests that Air NZ chairman Tony Carter resigns after cancelling the Auckland to Kapiti regional service. (March 2018)
WAR & GREENPEACE - Jones gets into a stoush with Greenpeace executive director Russel Norman over comments by Jones about MPI's prosecution of Talley's whose owner, Sir Peter Talley, donated $10,000 to Jones in the 2017 election. (February 2018)
STALLED - Freezes a $350,000 grant for a feasibility study in a waste to energy scheme when it is reported that the principal had been investigated by the SFO on unrelated matters. (February 2018)
NZ TRANSPORT AGENCY – THE STORY SO FAR
• NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) issues notice of its intention to revoke the transport services licence for Northland company Stan Semenoff Logging Ltd (SSLL) ) under the Land Transport Act, citing compliance issues including worktime and logbook offending. (August 9)
• NZTA briefs transport ministers including associate minister Shane Jones on fact it has issued notice on August 9 to revoke the transport services licence for Stan Semenoff Logging Ltd. (August 10)
• Shane Jones meets with SSLL general manager Daron Turner according to official answers given to National. (August 21)
• NZTA issues a formal notice to revoke SSLL transport service licence, effective from March 22. (March 15)
• Semenoff Logging wins interim orders in Auckland High Court to suspend the revocation of its licence. (March 22)
• Jones has a conversation with NZTA acting chief executive Mark Ratcliffe about what authority the Crown solicitor has to offer drivers immunity for reporting on their employers and receives a memo about it. (Late March)
• NZTA is set to challenge SSLL's bid for a permanent suspension of the revocation in court in April.
WHAT THE CABINET MANUAL SAYS
Following a long-established principle, Ministers do not comment on or involve themselves in the investigation of offences or the decision as to whether a person should be prosecuted, or on what charge. Similarly, they should not comment on the results of particular cases, on matters that are subject to suppression orders, or on any sentence handed down by a court. Ministers must avoid commenting on any sentences within the appeal period, and should avoid at all times any comment that could be construed as being intended to influence the courts in subsequent cases.
The Standing Orders of the House of Representatives (the Standing Orders) prohibit discussion in the House of matters that are awaiting judicial decision or that are the subject of a suppression order, subject to the discretion of the Speaker. The Standing Orders provide useful guidance on when to refrain from comment. The requirement for restraint applies to both civil and criminal cases.
Ministers may comment on the effectiveness of the law, or about policies on punishment (that is, on matters where the Executive has a proper involvement), but not where the performance of the courts is brought into question.