'I felt frightened': Tracey Martin reflects on controversial tenure as Minister for Children

"You do not know me, however I wanted to tell you what an impressive job you have done," a letter from Barbara from Hataitai, to outgoing Minister for Children Tracey Martin.

It came with a bunch of flowers. They are looking a little tired now, but Martin says they were lovely on the day.

A resounding defeat on election night means NZ First are out of Parliament for the first time since 2008. Now Martin, along with Defence Minister Ron Mark and the rest of their colleagues, are packing up and moving on.

While Barabara had only kind words for the outgoing minister, the job has not come without controversy.

Newsroom's story of an attempted uplift of a newborn ignited a storm of protests in June which continued throughout the year. Māori called for resignations and a separate by Māori, for Māori agency.

Newshub Nation asked Martin if, on reflection, she would have supported a separate agency for Māori tamariki.

"No. We need to change the conversation and the power structure but I don't think we need  to have this segregation of this is one cultural group over here and you are another you go over here, I don't think it will work," she said. 

Being in charge of such a contentious portfolio has also had a personal cost.

"It's probably the first time in my life that I have been frightened for myself and that's because there are a couple of groups who are quite aggressive on social media and in the physical world," she said.  

"At one stage people were talking about protesting outside my house in Warkworth. My children were home alone."

Last time NZ First left Parliament, its governing board didn't decide its future until February the following year. So there is plenty of time for reflection. 

Martin has been involved with the party since 1993. She is taking her time before committing to being part of the party again.

"It's a big question because my husband and I have been together for 27 years and for 18 of those, nine for him and nine for me, we have worked away from home." 

"That's 18 years of marriage - we need to take some time over this next little period and figure out what's best for us, so it's not an answer I can give right now." 

So she'll spend time with her winemaker husband in Carterton, contemplating. But whether she comes back or not, she's clear about her contribution.

"Mostly I am proud of being part of being able to keep together one of the first true MMP governments. Everything the Prime Minister faced and this Government faced, from a terrorist attack to White Island to Mycoplasma Bovis to a pandemic. I have played my part in keeping this country together and keeping it safe and I am proud of that."