Nick Smith was born and educated in North Canterbury where his parents founded a construction and crane company. He was an AFS Scholar to Delaware, United States, in 1983 and subsequently completed a first-class Honours degree in Civil Engineering and a PhD in landslides at Canterbury University.
Nick stood for the Rangiora District Council at 18 while still at secondary school and served as a councillor. He held many offices in Young Nationals and in the senior National Party prior to being selected as the National candidate for Tasman in 1989.
Nick won the Tasman seat in the 1990 election and doubled his majority in 1993. Following the MMP reforms in which Tasman was split between Nelson and West Coast, he won the seat of Nelson in 1996 for National and has been re-elected in 1999, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2014. Neither Nelson nor the Tasman electorates had been held by National in the preceding years.
Nick has had 12 ministerial portfilios in the Bolger, Shipley and Key Cabinets covering Conservation, Education, Immigration, Corrections, Social Welfare, Treaty negotiations, Environment, Climate Change, ACC, Local Government, Building and Housing. He is currently Minister for the Environment and Minister of Building and Housing, having served twice as Minister of Conservation and Environment.
His greatest passion has been improving New Zealand's management of the environment and natural resources. In 1998, he founded the Bluegreens as a group within National that wish to advance policies that support economic prosperity and a clean, green New Zealand.
Notable environmental achievements which Nick played a significant role include the Kahurangi and Rakiura National Parks, 12 Marine Reserves, the introduction of the amended Emissions Trading Scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the establishment of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, the Environment Protection Authority, and new legislation governing New Zealand's huge Exclusive Economic Zone.
Current initiatives Nick has underway are significant changes to the Building Act requiring upgrading of earthquake prone buildings and to the Tenancy Act, making smoke alarms and insulation mandatory. Other reforms he has underway include a new Environment Reporting Act , Marine protected Areas Act and a second phase of reforms to the Resource Management Act.
Major Nelson achievements include the Stoke Bypass, the major redevelopment of Nelson Hospital, the new integrated Garin College, significant funding contributions for the upgrade of Trafalgar Park for Rugby World Cup 2011, and the new Cawthorn Institute aquaculture centre at the Glen, and most recently for securing Government funding for the new after hours medical facility, the new special needs unit at Henley School and the new teen parent programme.
Nick has had more than his fair share of controversies and legal disputes during his 20-year Parliamentary career. In the 1990s, he triggered a major inquiry into the financial collapse of the Druids Friendly Society, and was involved in a dispute with the Exclusive Brethren over family dislocation. In the 2000s, advocacy for a constituent family in Nelson over the care of children landed him with a contempt of court conviction which subsequently triggered significant family law reforms. His more recent legal skirmish came as a consequence of raising concerns alongside a timber scientist about treatment which was subsequently settled out of court. Nick resigned from his portfolios in Prime Minister John Key's Cabinet in March 2012 when he accepted he had not properly managed a conflict of interest over a friend who was an ACC claimant.
Special legislation that Nick has sponsored through Parliament includes the Tasman District Council (Tarakohe Harbour Reclamation Validation and Vesting) Act 1995, the Royal Society on New Zealand Act (1997), Chartered Professional Engineers of New Zealand Act (2002) and the Bishop Suter Art Gallery Governance Act (2008).
Nick's recreational interests include kayaking, tramping, tennis, golf, and he plays the left wing in the Parliamentary Rugby team. He completed the Coast to Coast and kayaked the Cook Strait with his colleague and good friend Bill English.
Nick is married to Linley, and is the proud father of Hazel and Logan, and stepfather of Samantha and Alexander.
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