Nick Smith (New Zealand politician)

Last updated

Nick Smith

Nick Smith (cropped).jpg
Smith in 2013
13th Minister for the Environment
In office
8 October 2014 26 October 2017
Prime Minister John Key
Bill English
Preceded by Amy Adams
Succeeded by David Parker
In office
19 November 2008 21 March 2012
Prime Minister John Key
Preceded by Trevor Mallard
Succeeded by Amy Adams
1st Minister for Building and Housing
In office
8 October 2014 20 December 2016
Prime Minister John Key
Bill English
Preceded byHimself(as Minister of Housing and Minister of Building & Construction)
Succeeded byHimself(as Minister for Building & Construction)
12th Minister of Conservation
In office
22 January 2013 8 October 2014
Prime Minister John Key
Preceded by Kate Wilkinson
Succeeded by Maggie Barry
Minister of Housing
In office
22 January 2013 8 October 2014
Prime Minister John Key
Preceded by Phil Heatley
40th Minister of Education
In office
31 January 1999 10 December 1999
Prime Minister Jenny Shipley
Preceded by Wyatt Creech
Succeeded by Trevor Mallard
Minister for ACC
In office
19 November 2008 14 December 2011
Prime Minister John Key
Preceded by Maryan Street
Succeeded by Judith Collins
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Tasman
In office
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Nelson
Assumed office
Preceded by John Blincoe
Personal details
Nicolas Rex Smith

(1964-12-24) 24 December 1964 (age 54)
Rangiora, New Zealand
Political party National Party

Nicolas Rex Smith [1] (born 24 December 1964) [2] is a New Zealand politician and a member of the New Zealand Parliament as a National Party member of parliament. Smith has represented the Nelson electorate since 1996, and was the Member for Tasman before that, from 1990–1996. [3]


Smith is a former Cabinet minister, previously holding the posts of Minister for Building and Housing, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Climate Change Issues, and Minister for Local Government. [3]

For a brief time between October and November 2003 he was the deputy leader of the National Party, then in opposition under Don Brash.

Smith became the longest-serving MP in March 2018, having served continuously since the 1990 general election [4] [5] [6]

Education and early career

Smith was born in Rangiora in 1964, the son of John Smith and Anne Smith. His father was born in New South Wales and came to New Zealand to start a contracting business, building drains and bridges.

Smith has seven siblings; three sisters and four brothers. His father and two brothers all own independent construction crane hire businesses. [7]

Smith was educated at Rangiora High School and the University of Canterbury where he achieved 1st Class Honours in Civil Engineering, was an AFS Scholar to the U.S. and eventually gained a PhD with a thesis on New Zealand landslides. [8]

Before entering parliament, he worked as an engineer for the Rangiora County Council, and as director of his family construction company. He also served on the Rangiora District Council, unsuccessfully standing while still at secondary school in 1983, and successfully standing again in 1986 aged 18. [9]

Member of Parliament

New Zealand Parliament
1990 1993 43rd Tasman National
1993 1996 44th Tasman National
1996 1999 45th Nelson 30 National
1999 2002 46th Nelson8 National
2002 2005 47th Nelson3 National
2005 2008 48th Nelson5 National
2008 2011 49th Nelson5 National
2011 2014 50th Nelson6 National
2014 2017 51st Nelson13 National
2017 present 52nd Nelson15 National

Fourth National Government, 1990–1999

Nick Smith has been involved in the National Party since his university days. He stood in the 1990 election as the party's candidate in the Tasman electorate. For the 1996 election, a large slice of Tasman was merged into the neighbouring Nelson electorate. Smith opted to contest Nelson, and defeated Labour incumbent John Blincoe in the election. He has held Nelson since that time.

As well as the full ministerial posts mentioned below, Smith has also been an Associate Minister of the Immigration, Social Welfare and Treaty Negotiation portfolios. [10]

Cabinet Minister

In 1996, after serving six years in parliament, Smith was elevated to Cabinet, becoming Minister of Conservation. With this appointment, he replaced the outgoing Minister, Denis Marshall, who had resigned as an eventual consequence of the Cave Creek disaster. In 1997 he gained the additional responsibility of Minister of Corrections. In early 1999, he dropped the Corrections portfolio and became Minister of Education. When National was defeated in the 1999 general election, Smith continued to serve as his party's education spokesperson. [2]

Opposition years, 1999–2008

Leadership struggles

Nick Smith was a supporter of Bill English's bid to replace Jenny Shipley as party leader. When English was successful, Smith's position within the party rose. When English was himself challenged by Don Brash, Smith was one of English's strongest defenders, working very hard to win support against Brash. Eventually, however, English was defeated. [11]

Smith was appointed to the position of deputy leader, presumably to placate members of the English camp. He took up this position on 28 October 2003. Soon, however, he was challenged from within the party on the basis of his behaviour after his elevation, which critics described as "irrational" and "paranoid". Smith's defenders said that the claims were exaggerated, and that Smith was merely suffering from stress and exhaustion. Smith returned to Nelson on "stress leave". [12]

When Smith returned to parliament, however, he found himself challenged for the deputy leadership by Gerry Brownlee. Smith and his supporters were angry at this, saying that Brownlee's supporters had taken advantage of Smith's absence to deliberately misrepresent Smith as unstable. Smith was also angry that neither Brownlee or Brash (who appeared now to support Brownlee) had given any indication of the upcoming challenge. Smith was defeated, and lost the deputy leadership on 17 November 2003. [13] [14] [15]

Contempt of Court

In late March 2004, Smith was found guilty of contempt of court. He had been asked to assist a constituent with a Family Court case and made a number of public comments which broke the court's confidentiality rules and was also found to have pressured a witness in the case. Smith's defence was that he was exercising his responsibility as a constituency MP to aid a constituent and that his public utterances in the matter had served the public interest, but these claims were rejected by the court. The Speaker, Jonathan Hunt, held that contempt of court was insufficient to warrant expulsion from Parliament, as it did not fall within the statutory definition of a crime. [16] [17] [18] [19] [20]

Smith considered seeking a renewed public mandate through a by-election, but no by-election was held after leaders of other parties criticised the idea. Smith stood again in the 2005 general election and kept his seat with a greatly increased majority, his personal share of the vote increasing from 46.8% to 54.9% and his overall majority from 4,232 to 10,226. [21] [22]

Fifth National Government, 2009–2017

When National and the new leader, John Key, won the 2008 general election, Smith was appointed Minister for the Environment, Minister Responsible for Climate Change Issues, and Minister for the Accident Compensation Corporation, and was ranked sixth in Cabinet. [2]

Defamation case 2010

In April 2010, The New Zealand Herald reported that Smith had his legal fees for two separate defamation cases in 1999 and 2005 paid by the taxpayer. Smith stated that the legal fees for the 2005 case "totalled about $270,000." [23]

In June 2010, the New Zealand Herald reported that preservatives producer Osmose New Zealand was taking a defamation case against Smith in the High Court in Auckland. Osmose New Zealand alleges that Smith's statements made in July 2005 about the timber product, T1.2, destroyed the product's reputation caused the company to lose more than $14 million in estimated profits. [24] On 10 June 2010, Smith settled the case by issuing an apology and making an undisclosed payment. Smith was quoted by the Dominion Post as saying “No public money is involved in the settlement, although I have been very grateful to have received $209,000 of public money from the Parliamentary Service”. [25]

Climate change

Smith has been the National Party's Climate Change spokesman when in opposition, and has held the post of Minister for Climate Change Issues.

In May 2005, Smith, while criticising the Labour Government's proposed carbon tax, stated to Parliament that the National Party intended to move to a comprehensive emissions trading permit system. [26]

In November 2005, Smith made several statements criticising the Labour Government's proposed policy of implementing a carbon tax:

  • “The madness of the Government’s new carbon tax is that New Zealanders will be the only people in the world paying it. It will drive up the costs of living and undermine the competitiveness of New Zealand business for negligible environmental gain."
  • “Labour Ministers may take pride in being toasted at International Climate conferences for being so bold and brave, but there is no justification for New Zealand going out in the cold by itself on this issue."
  • “New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions made up only 0.4% of the global total and on a per capita basis our emissions are half those of countries like Australia and the United States. We are the only Southern Hemisphere country with binding legal obligations under Kyoto and giants like China and India have got off scot free.” [27]

From January 2008, Smith was giving speeches as National's Climate Change Spokesman. In one speech, he stating there was no question that the destabilising of the earth's climate, caused by increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, was the “number one environmental issue”. [28]

After the 2008 general election, Smith was appointed Minister for Climate Change Issues. The Nelson Mail described the appointment as the logical choice given Smith's role as the National Party's climate change spokesman and his role in the National 'Blue-Green' group. [29]

In December 2008, Smith announced a review of the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme which had only just been adopted in September via the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading) Amendment Act 2008. [30]

On 24 September 2009, Smith introduced the Climate Change Response (Moderated Emissions Trading) Amendment Bill for its first reading in Parliament. This bill amended the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme and it received the Royal assent on 7 December 2009. [31]

In November 2009, Smith stated in a speech to Federated Farmers that climate change is a global tragedy of the commons. It has significant consequences and the harm will fall on future generations. Economically, in terms of trade access, and environmentally, New Zealand must do its fair share. As it is a complex diabolical problem with huge economic implications for societies based on fossil fuel use, climate change policies must be substantive and realistic. [32]

In 2010, Smith was reported by the Press as saying the basic science of climate change was sound and that climate sceptics who leapt on errors by the IPCC should subject their "flaky" research to the same level of scrutiny as the IPCC reports. [33]


Smith resigned from all his Cabinet portfolios on 21 March 2012, after admitting that he had written on Minister for Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) letterhead to the Chief Executive of the ACC on behalf of a former National Party activist. [34] In accepting the resignation, John Key said "it's quite clear he should have made his conflict of interest also known, he shouldn't have had anything to do with the complainant, he should have delegated that responsibility as other ministers do". [35]

Housing, conservation, and environment

On 22 January 2013, Smith was returned to the Cabinet [36] and appointed to the Offices of Minister of Conservation and Minister of Housing. [37] [38]

Smith was re-elected in Nelson during the 2014 general election, defeating Labour candidate Maryan Street by 7,605 votes. [39] Following the re-election of National, he served as Minister of Building and Housing and Minister of Environment. [2]

Opposition, 2017–present

Nick Smith was re-elected in Nelson during the 2017 general election, defeating Labour candidate Rachel Boyack by 4,283 votes. [40] He became National's Spokesperson for Electoral Reform and State Services (including Open Government) portfolios in the Shadow Cabinet of Simon Bridges. [2] Smith was named as the party's new spokesperson for Crown–Māori Relations in January 2019. [41] [42]

Smith, in his capacity as National's electoral reform spokesperson, criticized in March 2019 the Labour members of Parliament's Justice Select Committee for blocking China expert and political scientist Anne-Marie Brady from testifying at a select committee hearing about interference from the Communist Party of China and its local proxies in the 2017 general election. Raymond Huo, the Chair of the Justice Select Committee, had declined Brady's application on procedural grounds that she had submitted her application five months after the deadline in September 2018. Smith criticized the Labour members of the select committee for blocking Brady on the grounds that it ignored Justice Minister Andrew Little's instruction that the committee consider the issue of foreign interference. [43] As a result, the Labour Government reversed its initial decision to exclude Brady. [44] [45]

Political views

In 2003 Smith voted against the Death with Dignity Bill, a bill aiming to legalise euthanasia in New Zealand. [46]

In 2004 Smith voted against the Civil Union Act 2004 and the Relationships (Statutory References) Act. [47] Smith also voted for the Marriage (Gender Clarification) Amendment Bill, which would have amended the Marriage Act to define marriage as only between a man and woman. [48]

In 2012 Smith voted against the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill , a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry in New Zealand. [49]

In 2018, Smith vocalised support for human and civil rights as enshrined in the Bill of Rights 1689 , during a debate on the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill . [50]

Parliamentary misconduct

As of 8 May 2019, Smith is the most recent member of the New Zealand Parliament to be named by the Speaker of the House when, on 8 May 2019, he was named by the Speaker, Trevor Mallard, for misconduct in the house. [51] No Member has been named by the Speaker since 2006, [52] when Smith was named by Assistant Speaker Ann Hartley. [53] [54]

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  7. Wood, Alan (4 January 2014). "Smith's cranes give country a lift". The Press . p. B20. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
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  12. "Brash's deputy on stress leave". 31 October 2003. ISSN   1170-0777 . Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  13. "Smith resigns after losing confidence of National party leader". 17 November 2003. ISSN   1170-0777 . Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  14. "McCully at centre of Nats whisper row". 17 November 2003. ISSN   1170-0777 . Retrieved 8 May 2019.
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  24. NZPA (7 June 2010). "$15m court case against MP deferred". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 7 June 2010.
  25. Forbes, Michael (10 June 2010). "Minister pays and apologises". The Dominion Post . Fairfax Media NZ Ltd. Retrieved 10 June 2010.
  26. Hon Dr Nick Smith (10 May 2005). "Climate Change Response Amendment Bill – First Reading". Hansard Volume: 625; Page:20394. New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 20 June 2012. National's view is that we must treat all of those equally, we must move to a comprehensive emissions trading permit system—or none at all. We say that it is either all or none. Picking only some will cause all sorts of distortions. The Government's Kyoto policies are in a mess. This bill will not work. It will only create more problems. The correct thing for the Government to have done was to hold back, wait until Kyoto becomes truly international, and then move all players into a tradable emissions permit system.
  27. Nick Smith (25 November 2005). "Nelson Marlborough Farming December column". Archived from the original on 5 May 2010. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
  28. Nick Smith (24 January 2008). "A Sustainable Government". 13th Annual Nelson Rotary Speech – ‘A Sustainable Government’ (Press release). New Zealand National Party. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
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  50. "Smith, Nick". Hansard. New Zealand Parliament. 7 August 2018. Retrieved 26 May 2019. He said the 1688 Bill of Rights was just a business of persecuting Catholics. If that is the case—and this is the Minister of Justice who said that—I ask this: if it was only about constraining the rights of Catholics, why is it that every member of this House walks in, each day, past that beautiful painting of 1689, when the Bill of Rights was there? If it was just a minor little thing, why do we have that painting there? Well, I'd love to hear an answer from members opposite, if the Bill of Rights, to this Government, is so insignificant. Then I ask the members opposite: if the Bill of Rights, as the Minister in the chair says, is so insignificant, why is it that it is the only Act of Parliament that is still alive and relevant and interpreted by the courts that's more than a hundred years old—and it is 330 years old. I'll tell you why: because of fundamental things in the Bill of Rights like freedom of thought, freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, and the right to sit in this House. Again, I say to the Minister of Justice: if the Bill of Rights is so insignificant in the contribution that he's made on this part, why is it that our Speaker made such a big deal of it when this 52nd Parliament—I'm sure my new MPs will remember that historic moment when Parliament took the time to send the Speaker to Government House. And what did we send the Speaker to Government House for? To re-establish the freedoms of this House to speak freely, and the Minister in the chair says, "Oh, the Bill of Rights is not important."
  51. "National MP Nick Smith named in Parliament and suspended". RNZ. 8 May 2019. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  52. Smith, Audrey (8 May 2019). "Nick Smith suspension: What 'naming' means for the booted MP". The New Zealand Herald . Retrieved 8 May 2019. The Office of Clerk does not keep a record of them but Clerk David Wilson believes the last time an MP was named was in 2006 – and it was Nick Smith again. Smith says the only person who has been named more often than him is New Zealand First's Winston Peters. He has been named at least four times.
  53. "Naming of Member – New Zealand Parliament". Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  54. "National MP Nick Smith has been suspended from the House". Stuff. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Ken Shirley
Member of Parliament for Tasman
Constituency abolished
Preceded by
John Blincoe
Member of Parliament for Nelson
Political offices
Preceded by
Paul East
Minister of Corrections
Succeeded by
Clem Simich
Preceded by
Wyatt Creech
Minister of Education
Succeeded by
Trevor Mallard
Preceded by
Trevor Mallard
Minister for the Environment
Succeeded by
Amy Adams
Preceded by
Maryan Street
Minister for ACC
Succeeded by
Judith Collins
Preceded by
Rodney Hide
Minister of Local Government
Succeeded by
David Carter
Preceded by
Kate Wilkinson
Minister of Conservation
Succeeded by
Maggie Barry
Preceded by
Phil Heatley
Minister of Housing
Office abolished
Preceded by
Amy Adams
Minister for the Environment
Succeeded by
David Parker
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Bill English
Father of the House