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David Slack: The obituary of Nick Smith MP

Jun 16, 2015 People

New Zealand’s most volatile man, Nick Smith, has spontaneously combusted. He was 94.


Smith did not come into the world in the usual way. He was accidentally created in a potter’s shed by a ponytailed Motueka hippie, Harmony Moondust.

“I was just mucking around,” Moondust said. “I wanted some kind of Halloween thing to scare the children, so I filled a balloon with angry bees, glued straw to the top, and tied it to the neck of scarecrow.”

He was looking for some dungarees when a friend dropped by with a righteous selection of mushrooms and pills. The next four days were a blur.

They had no recollection at all of what they did, or how they did it, but when the walls and ceilings eventually stopped moving, the scarecrow was alive and mowing the front paddock.

It was something to see. The noisier the lawnmower got, the angrier the bees became, Moondust said. “No joke, we thought his face was going to pop.”

They called him Scary Nick. “He was quite handy around the place, but that temper on him, man. With the angry bees and everything, there wasn’t enough weed in the world to keep you calm when he got up in your face.”

Harmony decided to pack Scary Nick off to university. He pinned an explanatory ticket to his shirt and told him to find the engineering school. “They don’t mind if you’re a bit of a hard case, the engineers,” he said, as he gently but firmly pushed him onto the front porch.

That was the last he thought about his strange creation until he picked up a newspaper many years later and discovered the scarecrow full of angry bees had become a cabinet minister.

Scary Nick was an easy guy to get along with as long as you agreed that he was right about everything. If you didn’t, the bees inside the balloon could get very, very stirred up. He quarrelled with everybody: constituents; media; MPs; baristas; the popcorn guy at Reading cinemas.

He was put in charge of ACC, which he discovered to his horror was in imminent danger of collapse. He was put in charge of the environment, which he discovered was in imminent danger of collapse. He was put in charge of housing, which also turned out to be in imminent danger of collapse.

No matter what he took over, it would never take long before it would look as though things really were a complete shambles. To his lasting annoyance, he would always be relieved of his portfolio just before things came right.

He eventually came to the conclusion that people were hopelessly stupid. They could not be helped and if you tried you got no thanks for it. Honestly, what was the point?

He quit politics and moved to the place that felt most like home, somewhere he could get away from all the buzzing in his head. Harmony Moondust looked over his fence one afternoon, saw a familiar red-faced figure trying to put up a yurt and brawling with the poles, and decided it was time to move to the North Island.

Eight months later when the yurt was eventually upright, Scary Nick pulled the flap closed and spent the next five years reading every self-help book ever published, tossing each one on the fire afterwards with a contemptuous snort. He could do vastly better. This eventually yielded his minor bestseller: I’m Sorted, Go Stuff Yourself.

The critics were not kind, but prime minister Paula Bennett said she had found it “had quite a lot of good ideas, and words and stuff that make you think”. Scary Nick said he supposed that was a nice thing to say, but he wondered how bloody far she’d have got without someone to read it to her.

People were strange, though. After offering Bennett a friendly, light-hearted olive branch like that, he’d assumed an invitation to return to cabinet would be a mere formality, but it never, ever came. It really just went to show, prime ministers could be unbelievably stupid.


This story first appeared in the June 2015 issue of Metro. Illustration by Daron Parton.


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