The Green Party should back off from criticising the rural sector says Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.
Jones was unhappy with Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage's recent comments about the Lake Ōhau fire.
When Federated Farmers said wilding vegetation on Department of Conservation (DoC) land had helped fuel the fire, Sage hit back saying nature did not start fires.
She also suggested that Federated Farmers was "making a push for free grazing" by suggesting the land go back to farming.
This kind of comment was unacceptable, Jones told The Country's Jamie Mackay.
"I'm absolutely gutted that the Green Party's description of the farmers of the South Island is that they want access to the land as a free leg over."
"I only hope that that comment spells doomsday for Eugenie and the Green Party. They have absolutely no right to either stigmatise or write off God-fearing, hardworking Kiwis down in the South Island in that rubbish vein."
Jones also disputed whether the land belonged to DoC, saying it should be given to regional councils to manage the fire risk "and move away from this fairy story that all the stewardship land is deeply tapu".
"It's actually overrun by vermin and weeds, and it's created piles of fuel which have driven the bad fire down there in the South."
Sage's comment about rural New Zealand was not only "very mean spirited, but it shows [the Greens] have an agenda," Jones said, referring to the party's push for moving to regenerative agriculture.
"They want to convert God-fearing Kiwis and their genuine farming practice into something called regenerative, without a thought as to the cost of the transition and the fact that, in a post-Covid environment - where is the dough going to come from in terms of export earning? It was always going to come from primary industry."
The Primary Industries needed a three year holiday from any further regulations "so we can pay our way out of this Covid mess," Jones said.
This included the recent freshwater rules, which should be "fine tuned" so they didn't "hobble the ability of rural New Zealand to earn dough," Jones said.
Mackay pointed out that the freshwater regulations were the work of Jones' friend, Environment Minister David Parker.
Fixing New Zealand's waterways was Parker's "passion", said Jones, but he admitted that if NZ First was "blessed with another chance to be back in Parliament", the regulations "will not stand".
When it came to passionate causes, Jones said his was fisheries, where again, he had clashed with the Green Party.
"I've come to grief with the Greenies, who continually deify things like Māui's dolphin. There is no such thing as Māui's dolphin - it's just a Hector's dolphin - the majority of which will never ever recover and are probably dead anyway."
Meanwhile, Mackay asked Jones what his leader Winston Peters was thinking when he suggested lowering the price of cigarettes.
Increasing the price of "a pack of fags" hadn't resulted in a drop off in smokers, said Jones, who accused Mackay of being a "disciple in the anti-smoking crusade".
Cigarette prices gave Jones another opportunity to criticise the Greens and the Labour Party.
"Here's the perfidy. Here's the irony. I've got the Greens and Labour campaigning to legalise dope, whilst at the same time I've got them wanting to tax the bejesus out of cigarettes."
"You can't have it both ways mate."
Finally, Jones had a strong message for any rural Kiwis considering not voting for NZ First.
"I say this to the farmers, if you wake up without Jones and Winston to look after your interests – welcome to your new form of hell – with the Greens as your new agricultural minister and Labour leading exclusively."
Also in today's interview: Jones remained philosophical about NZ First's drop in popularity with rural New Zealand, because all farmers "watch the All Blacks and they vote for the National Party". He also said polls were the work of "meddlesome media Beezlebubs".