The Minister for Regional Development and New Zealand First MP Shane Jones has taken a swipe at environmental activists, calling them economic vandals.
And he singled out Greenpeace for what he called its “ugly campaign” against the New Zealand economy.
The remarks came in the wake of renewed controversy over having cameras on board fishing vessels.
This was triggered by leaked comments showing Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash blaming New Zealand First for delaying the installation of cameras on all fishing groups.
Jones insisted his policy on cameras was based on respect for industries such as fishing, that produced income and jobs.
It had nothing to do with any donations to his party by fishing companies, he said.
Environmental groups have long argued that cameras should be installed on all fishing boats to monitor skippers who might accidentally catch mammals, or catch and possibly discard fish for which they did not have quota.
The fishing industry has long argued that footage from these cameras could be selectively edited and used for distorted attacks on the fishing industry by anti fishing campaigners.
Jones said the New Zealand First Party had sympathies for that position, and that was why officials had to work hard to get the policy on fishing boat cameras just right.
“It’s incredibly important that the officials work though the necessary safeguards so that one particular image doesn’t stigmatise an entire industry at the hands of economic vandals, otherwise known as the New Zealand NGO industry,” Shane Jones said.
Jones added these protections were especially important when social media was so ubiquitous and clickbait had become the new standard for journalism.
And he went on to single out Greenpeace for special attack.
“As a New Zealand First politican and as a cabinet minister, I am an apostle of industry.
“Industry should have every right to expect that they have voices at the table that ensure their importance is never eclipsed by excessive zeal to satisfy economic vandals in the form of Greenpeace.
“Greenpeace have had a long and quite frankly ugly campaign to try to stigmatise New Zealand industry.”
In response to this, Greenpeace said the commercial fishing industry thought it deserved special treatment.
“But there are rules in place for a reason,” the organisation said.
“We have speeding cameras to catch people breaking the speed limit, and we don’t expect to resolve that problem by getting individuals to self-report.
“But commercial fishing believe they’re accountable to no one.
“New Zealanders, including recreational fishers, want to see the oceans better protected.”