National MPs David Carter, Sarah Dowie and Nicky Wagner have all announced their plans to retire from politics at this year’s election.
While Carter’s and Wagner’s departures were widely rumoured, Dowie’s decision comes as a surprise given her uncontested selection last September to contest her Invercargill seat again.
The two-term MP has endured a difficult stint in Parliament since 2017, with police investigating an offensive text message allegedly sent by Dowie to rogue National MP Jami-Lee Ross, with whom she was having an affair (police ultimately decided against taking any action).
In a media statement, Dowie cited her two children as one of the reasons she was stepping down, noting she had entered Parliament when they were both under five years of age.
“What has become clear is that my children are at a pivotal age and I wish to be 100 percent present to share in their successes.
“While this was a difficult decision to make, I feel this is the right decision for me and my family.”
Dowie said her proudest achievements as an MP included serving the people of Invercargill, taking a leading role in developing National’s aquaculture policy, and acting as the party’s conservation spokeswoman.
Carter has been an MP for 26 years, previously serving as a minister of agriculture and primary industries, as well as Speaker of the House.
He said he had told both Bill English and Simon Bridges after the last election that this would be his last term in politics, with the time right “to let a new generation of talented and ambitious colleagues have their turn”.
Carter offered his backing to Bridges’ decision to rule out a coalition deal with New Zealand First, saying: “Having endured three robust court battles with Winston Peters, and winning each time, I know well how untrustworthy and difficult he is to work with.
“I am in full support of Simon Bridges’ decision to have nothing to do with New Zealand First and its leadership after the election.”
Wagner has been an MP since 2005, and in 2011 became the first National politician to represent Christchurch Central after beating Labour incumbent Brendon Burns with a razor-thin 47-vote margin after special votes, having been tied on election night.
She won the seat again in 2014 despite declaring boundary changes made it “unwinnable”, but was defeated by Labour MP Duncan Webb in 2017.
Wagner said one of her most rewarding roles in Parliament had been as the minister for disability issues, while she had also helped to broker an agreement to start the restoration of the Christ Church Cathedral.
Thirteen National MPs have now retired from politics, or announced they intend to do so, since the party fell out of government after the 2017 election.