National Party MP Paula Bennett will bow out of politics at the election and venture into the “business world”.
Her decision follows last month’s leadership change in the National Party after Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye rolled Simon Bridges and Bennett. Bennett was also removed as the party’s campaign chair and replaced by Gerry Brownlee
She informed Muller of her decision at 9am today. She told media this morning he had thanked her for what she had done for the party and that she would be missed.
Bennett summed up her rise in politics, from “a 17-year-old solo mum who dropped out of school ended up being Deputy Prime Minister of this country”.
She said that making the call to quit was not “tough at all”, and it was time to put herself first. Life was too short for regrets.
“I have had an incredible time in politics for the past 15 years and now I am looking forward to my next career.”
She had been reflecting on what she wanted to do in the past weeks. She was “open to opportunities” in the business world and did not have anything specific lined up at this stage.
She will remain and National Party member.
She joked that she would like to stay married so she didn’t plan to spend more time with her family.
She looked forward to more fishing.
Former Prime Minister John Key had told her to sort her golf swing, and she would look to do that, but she was most excited about business opportunities.
She had no plans for a tell-all book at this stage, she said.
Bennett said the past two and a half years in Opposition is where she has “probably learnt the most”.
“The whole thing though has been a hell of a ride and I have loved it. Now it is time for the next chapter. I am excited to take the skills I have out of Parliament and into the business world. I have always wanted another career after politics and now is the right time for me to go and pursue that.”
She said she “had many people to thank”.
“I believe that much of my success has been due to the incredible people who have worked with and for me.
“I am particularly proud of my work as Minister for Social Development and Child Youth and Family for more than six years.
“Many think being a Minister is a hands off role. I loved being hands on. I implemented those reforms, drove the change and the daily execution, and most importantly saw people’s lives and livelihoods improve.”
Asked about welfare changes, she said: “There is an expectation that a lifetime on welfare is an option for people, and almost feels encouraged when it should be a back-stop that is there if you need it.”