Greens oppose Smith's return

BILL MOORE
Last updated 13:00 22/01/2013

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Nelson MP Nick Smith's self-imposed 10-month spell in the political sin bin looks set to be over, but the Green Party says he shouldn't be allowed back into the Cabinet before the next election.

The Greens' co-leader, Metiria Turei, said Dr Smith had not shown "the kind of integrity and responsibility required of a minister".

"I don't think he should be returned this term."

Prime Minister John Key's office confirmed this morning that he would be announcing his reshuffled Cabinet some time today, but couldn't say when.

Mr Key said yesterday that it was "a well-educated guess" that Dr Smith would be back in Cabinet. He has previously said that Dr Smith's long and wide ministerial experience is missed, and that he holds him in high regard.

Dr Smith, who was local government, environment and climate changes issues minister, resigned all his portfolios in March last year after being drawn into the Bronwyn Pullar affair. He admitted that he had made an error of judgment by writing a letter of support for Ms Pullar, a former close friend, and sending it to ACC officials while he was ACC minister.

He has been on the back benches ever since and last week told the Nelson Mail that he was refreshed and ready to return to Cabinet if that was Mr Key's wish.

Ms Turei said that Dr Smith was an experienced minister who had still "behaved unethically and mis-used ministerial powers to interfere with ACC operations on behalf of a personal friend".

It was too soon for his return, she said.

"The difficulty for National is that they're clearly struggling to find people to fill ministerial roles. We can see that with the continuation of Hekia Parata as education minister, who's been an unmitigated disaster."

Speculation about Dr Smith's elevation has included suggestions that he might once again get the local government portfolio, likely to be vacated if David Carter becomes Speaker of the House, as expected. Mr Carter also holds the primary industries portfolio and it's possible that this might be split, with Dr Smith a potential candidate to head the fishing and forestry divisions.

He is unlikely to get environment back. Mr Key yesterday made a point of praising the incumbent, Selwyn MP Amy Adams, who was elevated last April after Dr Smith resigned.

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- The Nelson Mail

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