Nick Smith (New Zealand politician)

The Honourable Dr
Nick Smith
Minister for the Environment
Assumed office
8 October 2014
Prime Minister John Key
Preceded by Amy Adams
In office
19 November 2008  21 March 2012
Prime Minister John Key
Preceded by Trevor Mallard
Succeeded by Amy Adams
Minister for Building and Housing
Assumed office
8 October 2014
Prime Minister John Key
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
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Tasman
In office
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Nelson
Assumed office
Preceded by John Blincoe
Majority 8,471 (23.64%)
Personal details
Born Nicolas Rex Smith
(1964-12-24) 24 December 1964
Rangiora, New Zealand
Nationality New Zealand
Political party National Party
Occupation Engineer

Nicolas Rex "Nick" Smith[1] (born 24 December 1964)[2] is a New Zealand politician and a member of the Parliament of New Zealand as a National Party MP. He is a Cabinet minister, currently holding the posts of Minister for Building and Housing and Minister for the Environment.[3] Previously in the 50th Parliament of New Zealand he held the posts of Minister for the Environment, Minister for Climate Change Issues and Minister for Local Government, before resigning from all Cabinet Portfolios after failing to avoid a conflict of interest when he was minister for Accident Compensation.

Between 1996 and 1999 he was in Cabinet, holding various portfolios including Minister of Corrections, Minister of Conservation and Minister of Education. For a brief time between October and November 2003 he was the deputy leader of the National Party, then in opposition under Don Brash.

Education and early career

Smith was born in Rangiora in 1964, the son of John 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.[4] 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.[5] 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 21.[6]

Member of Parliament

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate List Party
19901993 43rd Tasman National
19931996 44th Tasman National
19961999 45th Nelson 30 National
19992002 46th Nelson 8 National
20022005 47th Nelson 3 National
20052008 48th Nelson 5 National
20082011 49th Nelson 5 National
20112014 50th Nelson 6 National
2014 present 51st Nelson 13 National

Smith has been involved in the National Party since his university days. He stood in the 1990 elections as the party's candidate in the Tasman electorate. For the 1996 elections, 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.[7]

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.

Leadership struggles

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.

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".

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.

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.

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.

Smith was nominally ranked fifth in the National Party's hierarchy in 2004.

Fifth National Government 2009 to 2011

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.

Defamation case 2010

In April 2010, the NZ 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."[8]

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. [9] 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”.[10]

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.[11]

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

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”.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17]

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.[18]


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.[19] 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".[20]

Housing and conservation

On 22 January 2013, Smith was returned to the Cabinet[21] and appointed to the Offices of Minister of Conservation and Minister of Housing.[22][23]


  1. "Members Sworn". New Zealand Parliamentary Debates. 8 December 2008. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  2. "Hon Dr Nick Smith". New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  3. Bennett, Adam (6 October 2014). "John Key unveils new Cabinet line-up". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  4. Wood, Alan (4 January 2014). "Smith's cranes give country a lift". The Press. p. B20. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  5. "About Nick". Nick Smith MP Nelson. 2011. Retrieved 24 May 2011.
  6. "The Rise and Fall of Nick Smith". Stuff. Fairfax. 2012. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
  7. "Biography". Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  8. Trevett, Claire (7 April 2010). "We're paying for MPs' legal bills, but it's a secret". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  9. NZPA (7 June 2010). "$15m court case against MP deferred". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 7 June 2010.
  10. Forbes, Michael (10 June 2010). "Minister pays and apologises". The Dominion Post. Fairfax Media NZ Ltd. Retrieved 10 June 2010.
  11. 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.
  12. Nick Smith (25 November 2005). "Nelson Marlborough Farming December column". Archived from the original on 5 May 2010. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
  13. 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.
  14. Editorial (19 November 2008). "Bold new lineup". The Nelson Mail. Retrieved 29 August 2011.
  15. Smith, Nick (9 December 2008). "Climate change select committee established". New Zealand Government Media Release. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
  16. "Climate Change Response (Moderated Emissions Trading) Amendment Bill". New Zealand Parliament. 7 December 2009. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  17. Smith, Nick (19 November 2009). "Taking agriculture forward with the Emissions Trading Scheme". Speech to Federated Farmers National Council Meeting, Westpac Stadium, Wellington. National Party Bluegreens.
  18. "Basic climate change science 'sound' despite IPCC error". The Press. Fairfax NZ Limited. 10 February 2010. Retrieved 5 July 2010.
  19. "Smith resigns portfolios over ACC letter". Radio New Zealand. 21 March 2012. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
  20. Romanos, Amelia (21 March 2012). "Nick Smith resigns over ACC fiasco". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
  21. "Members of Executive Council Appointed" (7 February 2013) 13 New Zealand Gazette 409 at 438
  22. "Appointment of Ministers" (7 February 2013 13 New Zealand Gazette 409 at 438
  23. "PM announces changes to Cabinet line-up" (Press release). New Zealand Government. 22 January 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nick Smith (New Zealand politician).
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Ken Shirley
Member of Parliament for Tasman
Constituency abolished
Preceded by
John Blincoe
Member of Parliament for Nelson
1996 – present
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
2014 – present
New office Minister for Building and Housing
2014 – present
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