National's Harete Hipango becomes MP after Nick Smith resignation

The National Party's Harete Hipango has officially been announced as New Zealand's newest Member of Parliament.

Her promotion to MP comes a day after Dr Nick Smith gave his valedictory speech in Parliament, bringing to an end a 30-year career as an MP.

As the highest-ranked candidate on National's list not to be elected as an MP at the 2020 election, Hipango was next in line to step up should any National MP step down during the term.

After Dr Smith's surprise announcement that he'd resign last month - a decision taken amid a confidential inquiry into a "verbal altercation" in his office in 2020 - Hipango was duly promoted.

The promotion was officially announced on Thursday in the New Zealand Gazette (Te Kāhiti o Aotearoa), the official Government newspaper and authoritative journal of constitutional record.

"The Electoral Commission has received a warrant from Her Excellency the Governor General, to supply a member of Parliament to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Nicolas Rex Smith," the announcement reads.

"...The Electoral Commission has asked Harete Hipango whether she is willing to be a member of Parliament and she has indicated her willingness to be a member of Parliament.

"Therefore… The Electoral Commission declares that Harete Hipango is elected as a member of Parliament by publication of this declaration in the New Zealand Gazette."

This will be Hipango's second stint in Parliament, having served as Whanganui and National MP between 2017 and 2020. However this time she's just a list MP, having lost the Whanganui seat to Labour's Steph Lewis at the 2020 election by more than 8000 votes.

Who is Harete Hipango?

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. 

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 woman's pregnancy would cause mental or physical distress to the patient to approve the procedure. 

Hipango and Ardern butted heads on abortion legislation.
Hipango and Ardern butted heads on abortion legislation. Photo credit: Getty Images / Facebook

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".  

While it's not known exactly what Hipango's salary will be, MPs usually earn between $160,000 and $180,000 a year.