Nick Smith resigns all his ministerial portfolios after intervening in a friend's ACC claim when ACC Minister

Nick Smith resigns all his ministerial portfolios after intervening in a friend's ACC claim when ACC Minister

By Pattrick Smellie

The government has lost one of its lynchpin Ministers, Nick Smith, who has resigned over two inappropriate letters written to a personal friend and ACC claimant while he was Minister in charge of the no-fault accident scheme in the last term of Parliament.

In a quavering voice, Smith made his announcement to Parliament as soon as it sat this afternoon, saying he had tendered his resignation from “all portfolios” this morning, and that Prime Minister John Key had accepted.

As well as a letter already revealed yesterday to have been written to a personal friend and former National Party activist, Bronwyn Pullar, Smith said there was a second letter written in March 2010, in which he failed to note his conflict of interest. He said the letter was drafted by ACC staff after a letter originally sent to Associate ACC Minister at the time, Pansy Wong, was referred to him.

Wong was also a friend of Pullar’s and informed her she could not take up her case because of the conflict of interest.

"I made not one error of judgement, but two in dealing with a conflict of interest in respect of a friend who made repeated attempts to me during my period as Minister of ACC to interfere and advocate on her case," Smith told Parliament. "It was an error of judgement in doing the letter, but more-so in it being on ministerial letterhead."

Pullar was also the whistleblower in the recent revelation that ACC had accidentally emailed details relating to sensitive cases, including sex abuse victims, to Pullar inadvertently.

Smith leaves big shoes for Key to fill, having just this week announced major reforms as the Minister of Local Government. As Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, he was the driving force in the Cabinet on domestic climate change and environmental policy, including water allocation and the new regime for the Exclusive Economic Zone.

“I’m disappointed I won’t be about to continue my work in areas I’m passionate about,” said Smith, his composure breaking at the end of his brief statement, after which he immediately left the debating chamber. He will serve out this term of Parliament.

Smith said he “didn’t, in my view, interfere in any way about judgement calls ACC made (on Pullar’s case)”, but he accepted his actions had fallen below the standards required by Ministers.

In an interim measure, Prime Minister John Key said Gerry Brownlee would pick up local government, Craig Foss would take climate change and Chris Finlayson will step into the environment portfolio.

See Smith's resignation in this statement to Parliament below:

Prime Minister John Key issued the following Statement.

Prime Minister John Key said today he had accepted with sadness the resignation of Dr Nick Smith from his Ministerial portfolios.

The resignation follows questions about Dr Smith’s judgement in supporting an ACC claimant while he was Minister during the previous term.

“It is important that Ministers are seen to actively manage both real and perceived conflicts of interest in the exercise of their duties,” says Mr Key.

“I have always expected high standards from my Ministers - and I will continue to do so.

“Dr Smith has been a hard-working and diligent Minister, but perceptions do matter and he knows he has let himself down.

“I am very disappointed to have lost such a capable Minister. Dr Smith has made a huge contribution to the National Party and to this Government.

“Dr Smith did excellent work in the climate change, local government and environment portfolios. His obvious expertise in these, and other, complex areas will continue to be valued by our Caucus.”

The following Ministers will act in portfolios previously held by Dr Smith: Gerry Brownlee in Local Government, Craig Foss in Climate Change Issues and Chris Finlayson in Environment.

 

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

19 Comments

Comment Filter

Highlight new comments in the last hr(s).

There you go Walter...another Hero bites the dust......of course it will be the krytonite Winnie popped into his pocket  while he was deshiveling his coat-tails.
 Or was it a case of John boy saying .."Get thee away from me Smithy, as I don't look good in Poo Smattered Blue  .

Probably appropriate but I feel a bit sorry for him.  His history of slip ups appear to have been guiless and well intentioned for the good of others.

Quite agree Chris-M , quite agree... but rumor has it....there may have been a little good in it for him..hence the early departure..(see Winnies comments under privilege)
For me the Knock On effect is what I will savor.....there is just something about John Boys face as the smug drains from it.......you get a better look at the man I guess.  
 National Activist...? is that what they call it these days.

I know, but a nagging woman can drive you to just about anything.  On the other hand some of the ACC rulings seem rather iniquitous and victims are pretty powerless.  A bit of a conundrum really because ACC walk a tightrope between abusers of the system and being too tough on genuine victims.  None of this however is an excuse for Dr Smith.

Boys, joining the “Boys Club” of the frontbenders searching for excuses – same old story.

"I know, but a nagging woman can drive you to just about anything." LMAO, where were you when I needed help on Amanda's thread.

Updated with video of Key
Cheers
Alex

I think he's been one of the better mps, even if his delivery of rma reform has been underwhelming

Who's next?

Idiot.
For an experienced Member of the House and senior cabinet minister to make such a mistake is unforgivable. He's being around long enough to know better than that. He's error prone Nick Smith I'm afraid. It's probably best that he has gone, but I'm very disappointed in him that he has fu#^ed up so badly and thrown a spanner into the works of what are very important reforms.
Ms Pullar to me sounds like a real 'hell hath no fury than a women scorned' piece of work. They are almost always best avoided.

Nick for......(only) Nelson! LOL Nelsonians are clearly idiots

Short answer: No.
Smith was one of the few Nats who know what the environment is, and one of the very few who can probably spell it. Possible it was a jack-up, but it's alast-ditch game on an ever-sloping deck, there will be few such.
 
John Armstrong did a piece a wee way back about Kohn Key thinking it was a see-saw thing - more environment=less economic growth, more economic growth needs less environment.
 
Just what those kind of folk think when they eat, digest and shit, beats me. Perhaps they don't. To think they're superior to, or above, the environment they rely on for life, is the most ignorant, arrogant thought that can be held.
 
Luckily - and they'll be well aware of it - there aren't two years of 'developnment' left in the system, perhaps less. Go listen to Foss, Hugh. Don't stay purposely ignorant - we'll need your expertise big-time when the crash happens. Need you to be thinking ahead .
 
Remember this message, I'll be reminding you            :)

For all his faults, Smith is one of the few MPs (other than Lange) who has had the guts to expose the Exclusive Brethren for their family-destroying ways  -  he went into bat for a young family in Nelson who had had their kids stolen by the Exclusive Brethos .  And he stood his ground while they wheeled out their heavies & highly paid lawyers  -   & he helped win some kids back to their rightful parents.
Who knows   .... anyone who riles the EBs is likely to have highly paid PIs & lawyers muck-raking against them for life  - this secret group (no longer resembling anything close to Christianity) will stop at nothing, specialising in breaking up families throughout NZ & Aus.
 

He might come out of it better off because there are plenty of SOE board openings, lots of Working groups and somebody needs to take over from Gerry...

HAHAHA! The top video, all the way through there is a little old guy to the bottom right of the screen with a really worried look on his face. Like he's been hustled in there by accident, and is pinned in by the reporters, he doesn't know anyone there and is about to have a panic attack, all he is thinking is 'I have to get out of here because I'm picking the wife up at 2pm'. The sustained look of confusion/ worry is absolutely the funnniest thing I have seen for ages. Who is he? The cleaner? A courier driver???

John Key maybe? 

Bugger. You spend all day skewering him then the coward runs away

For enviromental portfolio, I'd prefer Nick Smith and David Parker!

Does Finlayson know how to spell envrionment?