Harete Hipango: National's new anti-abortion MP with a history of criticising Jacinda Ardern

Former Whanganui MP Harete Hipango, a Catholic Māori woman with strong pro-life views, is set to replace outgoing National MP Nick Smith. 

Hipango was the highest-ranked National Party list candidate who did not enter Parliament after the 2020 election. Dr Smith is a list MP, so with him stepping down on June 10, Hipango will take his place this month. 

Dr Smith lost the seat of Nelson at the election after holding it for 30 years. He said in a statement on Monday he had "come to realise that the role as a list MP is just not for me", and made the decision to retire earlier this year. 

Dr Smith also mentioned an ongoing Parliamentary Services probe into a verbal altercation at his Wellington office last July, so he decided "the best course of action for the parties involved, the National Party, my family and myself, is to retire now".

Hipango now gets a second chance at Parliament, but this time she's not representing the seat of Whanganui. The electorate was won by Labour's Steph Lewis. 

"I'm looking forward to her joining the team, she'll be welcomed," National Party deputy leader Dr Shane Reti said on Tuesday. 

"She brings a lot of experience in law particularly, and in the family courts. She already hits the ground running because of her previous experience so she'll be welcomed into the caucus."

During her time as an MP, Hipango made no secret of her strong views against abortions, at a time when the Government was decriminalising it. 

After the Abortion Legislation Act passed in March 2020, taking abortion out of the Crimes Act, Hipango accused Ardern of supporting abortions to full-term, even though two health practitioners must sign off any abortion after 20 weeks. 

Hipango, responding to comments Ardern made that New Zealand could be doing more to improve infant mortality, said the "hypocrisy is astounding" given the Prime Minister supported the Abortion Legislation Bill. 

National leader Judith Collins and incoming National MP Harete Hipango.
National leader Judith Collins and incoming National MP Harete Hipango. Photo credit: Facebook

Hipango said abortions have "for decades" in New Zealand been lawful and treated as a health issue. But before the law change, abortions were part of the Crimes Act and women had to exploit a loophole in the law order to get one. 

A doctor would have to determine that a women's pregnancy would cause mental or physical distress to the patient to approve the procedure. 

Ardern responded to Hipango's comments at the time by asking for MPs to air their views "based on fact".

Hipango came under fire again in the lead-up to the election after she posted a false quote criticising New Zealand's farming sector attributed to Ardern. 

It came after Ardern and National leader Judith Collins were asked in their first TV debate how they planned to support farmers to be both sustainable and profitable, and it led to a showdown between the two leaders.  

As Ardern and Collins debated whether farmers felt supported enough by the Government, Collins said they feel that "they have got the weight of the world on them", to which Ardern said is "the view of a world that has passed". 

Ardern's remark sparked anger from National supporters, including National MP Nicola Willis who said it "came across as patronising" and "anti-farmer", while Taieri candidate Liam Kernaghan said it was "incredibly offensive". 

In a Facebook post, Hipango posted an image with the false quote - "dairy farming is a world of the past" - and an image of Ardern, with the caption: "This is what the PM really thinks of our dairy farmers. She said it!"

When asked by the Whanganui Chronicle why she posted those words, Hipango argued it was not a false quote but "a construction of key words aligned with Jacinda Ardern".