Nick Smith's political ups and downs

PALOMA MIGONE
Last updated 14:40 21/03/2012
Parliament TV

Nick Smith resigns his portfolios in a speech to Parliament.

Nick Smith after announcing that he is resigning from his Cabinet portfolios in Parliament.
CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax NZ Zoom
Nick Smith after announcing in Parliament that he is resigning from his Cabinet portfolios.

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Nick Smith resigns ministerial portfolios Nick Smith's letter a step too far Nick Smith's personal statement to the House

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Nick Smith has been in Parliament for 21 years, but after starting out as one of National's brightest hopes his political career has been characterised by ups and downs.

Smith today quit his ministerial portfolios, after revelations he had written on ministerial letterhead a reference to ACC on behalf of a close friend, Bronwyn Pullar. He was ACC Minister at the time, raising questions of misuse of power.

It's not the first time he's been in political hot water.

He was dumped as National's deputy leader in 2003, after being sent home on stress leave when colleagues reported him acting oddly. He had been in the job only a matter of weeks, after a leadership coup by Don Brash toppled Bill English, who was a close friend of Smith's.

Smith had apparently been living on energy drinks and getting little sleep as the coup unfolded.

Among his colleagues, Smith is regarded as being passionate with a brilliant mind, often thinking several steps but failing to take the time to win over supporters.

Prone to outbursts of emotion and getting over wrought, he was voted the ''worst behaved'' MP of the year in a Peter Dunne competition in 2004, after he was ordered to withdraw and apologise 10 times, and was four times expelled from the House.

In the same year, the MP almost vacated his Nelson seat after being fined $5000 for contempt of court.

He had publicly intervened in a custody battle on behalf of a couple, who later lost their appeal for custody of their seven-year-old son.

Smith was considering resigning and contesting a by-election to seek a new "moral mandate" from Nelson voters.

He was also embroiled in legal battles including a $15 million damages action related to statements he made about timber treatment, and he was sued for defamation, but settled outside court.

Smith first won his Tasman seat in 1990, then again in 1993. After the introduction of MMP, he was elected in Nelson in 1996 and has held the seat since.

He was born and educated in North Canterbury, his family running in bridge construction business.

He went to Canterbury University, where he completed a first-class honours degree in civil engineering and a PhD in landslides.

He also spent a year as an AFS scholar to Delaware in the United States, and became a district councillor while studying.

He was a member of the so-called ''brat pack'' from the National government of the 1990s that included English, Tony Ryall and former MP Roger Sowry.

He has held 10 ministerial portfolios, including education, corrections, ACC and local government.

He was minister of climate change, environment and local government at the time of his resignation.

He played a role in introducing the Emissions Trading Scheme and in the creation of the Kahurangi and Rakiura National Parks.

On the National Party website, kayaking, tramping, tennis, and golf are listed as his recreational interests.

He is married to Linley, his second marriage, and has two children - Hazel and Logan - and two step-children - Samantha and Alexander.

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