Nick Smith (New Zealand)

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Parl. Electorate List Pos. Party
43rd Tasman National
44th Tasman National
45th Nelson 30 National
46th Nelson 8 National
47th Nelson 3 National

Nick Smith (born 24 December 1964) is a member of the New Zealand Parliament, a former Cabinet minister, and a former deputy leader of the National Party.

Smith was educated at Canterbury University, studying engineering. He eventually gained a Ph.D. in this subject. 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.

After having been involved in the National Party since his university days, Smith stood in the 1990 elections as the party's candidate in the Tasman electorate (based around Nelson). He has retained that seat (now called Nelson) since that time.

In 1996, after serving six years in parliament, Smith was elevated to Cabinet, becoming Minister of Conservation. A year later, in 1997, he gained the additional responsibility of Minister of Corrections. He also held a number of Associate Minister positions during this time. In early 1999, he dropped the Corrections portfolio and became Minister of Education. When National was defeated in the 1999 elections, Smith continued to serve as his party's education spokesperson.

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.

In late March 2004, Smith was found guilty of contempt of court - having been asked to assist a constituent with a case before the Family Court, he made a number of public comments which broke the court's confidentiality rules. Smith defended himself as having merely served the public interest, but this claim was rejected by the court. The Speaker, Jonathan Hunt, has said that the offence is not sufficient to warrant expulsion from Parliament, but Smith has indicated that he may nevertheless seek a renewed public mandate through a by-election. The leaders of other parties, including Prime Minister Helen Clark, have criticised any planned by-election as a waste of time and money, and have indicated that they would not stand candidates against Smith. No by-election was held and Smith is restanding in the 2005 general election.

Smith currently serves as National's spokesperson for local government, the environment, and outdoor recreation. He is nominally ranked sixth in the National Party's hierarchy.

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