“NZ First MP Shane Jones’ disrespectful comments yesterday show he’s out of touch with the concerns of our rural communities and the people of Northland,” says ACT’s Northland candidate Mark Cameron.

“In Parliament yesterday, Shane Jones referred to another Member of Parliament as ‘the Mad Melon’ and was admonished by Speaker Trevor Mallard.

“Later that night, he again made backhanded, sarcastic comments about the mental health of an MP, was chided by his colleagues, and forced to apologise.

“His comments trivialise the mental health issues faced by many rural New Zealanders in Northland.

“Jones is a self-described ‘champion’ of the regions. If he was really in touch with the provinces, he’d understand that farmers are doing it tough right now.

“As a dairy farmer from Ruawai, I’ve seen the twin impacts of Covid-19 and drought and the effects on the mental health of our farming communities.

“Our rural communities already feel we are invisible to decision-makers and our voices disregarded.

“The last thing Northland needs is a representative that goes to Parliament and makes light of mental health issues, a serious concern for farming communities.

“This Government doesn’t understand the rural sector. That’s why we’re seeing counterproductive and damaging policies like the Zero Carbon Act and freshwater regulations.

“These policies are putting serious pressure on the rural sector and adding to existing mental health issues.

“Rural New Zealanders are the backbone of this country, but their values and voices have been forgotten. Farmers have been let down by successive governments led by both major parties. Farmers want to be heard in Wellington.

“ACT understands the concerns of the rural sector and we’ve held the Government accountable over the past two years. Only ACT opposed the Zero Carbon Act and we’ve called for the implementation on the rural sector of the freshwater regulations to be delayed until we’re out of the Covid-19-induced recession.”