Nick Smith's political ups and downs

02:24, Mar 21 2012
Nick Smith Election Night 1990
Election night 1990 and Nick Smith is pictured with his wife, Cyndy, and father, John.
Nick Smith McDonald's
Bill English, Roger Sowry, Nick Smith and Tony Ryall have a bite to eat at McDonald's, 1993.
Nick Smith 1999 election
Nick Smith at his Nelson headquarters during the 1999 election.
Nick Smith rugs
National MP Nick Smith pictured in 2000, with one of the rugs he claimed cost $60,000, at Meridian Energy's Wellington office.
Nick Smith
The Nelson MP gives a presentation to orchardists in 2001, on what he thought was wrong with the ENZA levy on apple growers.
Nick Smith
In 2003, Nick Smith and Judith Collins both spoke against the prostitution law reform bill.
Nick Smith
In 2004, Nick Smith is pictured heading to the High Court having been charged with contempt after revealing details of a Family Court case. With him is his wife, Cyndy.
Nick Smith
Nick Smith reacts to applause in Parliament after Speaker Jonathan Hunt said no further action would be taken on his contempt charge.
Nick Smith
Nick Smith walking through Parliament's press gallery in 2003, to announce he was stepping down as deputy leader of the party.
Nick Smith
For part of 2003, Nick Smith spent time working on his children's playground.
Nick Smith
WWF New Zealand presents the-then Minister for Environment research about the number of people who "switched-off" for Earth Hour, 2009.
Nick Smith
Nelson's ACC injury-prevention consultant Mark Preston-Thomas advises Nick Smith on the safe use of a ladder at the Nelson MP's home.
Nick Smith
Environment Minister Nick Smith looks at a sample of water from the Manawatu River, last year.
Nick Smith
Nick Smith watches the progress on the stricken Rena.
Nick Smith
Nick Smith leaves the media scrum after answering questions regarding his letter to ACC.
Nick Smith announces his resignation from this Cabinet portfolios in Parliament.
Nick Smith announces in Parliament that he is resigning from this Cabinet portfolios.
Nick Smith after announcing that he is resigning from his Cabinet portfolios in Parliament.
Nick Smith after announcing in Parliament that he is resigning from his Cabinet portfolios.

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.