National's Paula Bennett to leave Parliament at election - 'A hell of a ride'

Paula Bennett will be leaving Parliament at this year's election.

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The National Party MP made the announcement from her Auckland electorate of Upper Harbour. Source: 1 NEWS

She will be stepping down immediately from her number 13 National Party ranking and from her position as spokesperson for drug reform and women. 

"The whole thing though has been a hell of a ride and I have loved it," Ms Bennett said. 

"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." 

Ms Bennett, donned in her signature leopard print, told media today the decision was the result of her "probably being really selfish for the first time in 15 years".

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Paula Bennett is bringing her colourful time in politics to a close. Source: 1 NEWS

"I really want another career. I was very clear this is my decision and my time. There's no point in having regrets, life is too short for it."

"The 17-year-old solo mum ended up being deputy Prime Minister of this country, when I looked at that and what I’d achieved, I knew I could draw a line comfortably and proudly under that and move onto my next challenge."

It comes after last month's leadership battle loss saw her plummet from number two to 13 on the National Party list, and lose her spot as party deputy leader. 

Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye rolled former leader Simon Bridges and Ms Bennett.

Forty minutes after the announcement, Mr Muller tweeted: "Throughout her career Paula Bennett has been a tireless advocate for New Zealanders. NZ is a better place after 15 years of Paula's service as MP, Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. I wish her the very best for the future."

He then released a statement saying Ms Bennett "will always be remembered as a staunch advocate for women and victims during her years in Parliament with a results-based approach to policy, holding herself accountable for how her work made a difference in the lives of New Zealanders".

Simon Bridges also tweeted: "It’s impossible to sum up Paula. But her experience, nous, & larger than life sense of fun means she is a massive loss to National politics. As my deputy, I could not have asked for a single thing more."

Ms Bennett held the position from December 2016, when she was deputy Prime Minister to Bill English. She was then deputy Opposition leader from October 2017. 

After being rolled as deputy, Ms Bennett's first appearance on TVNZ1's Breakfast saw her call politics "brutal", but add it was a job she loved.  

"I just know that I love this National Party, I love the team I work with, I think I've still got something to contribute."

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Ms Bennett was stripped of her deputy leader title on Friday after she and former leader Simon Bridges were rolled by Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye. Source: Breakfast

She was also stripped of the National Party campaign chair role, telling media it was a role she enjoyed "but I roll with the punches around here". 

"I love campaigning and had so much of the organisation done."

Ms Bennett first stepped into Parliament in 2005, taking the Waitakere electorate seat in 2008 and then holding Upper Harbour since 2014. 

Since then, the self-described "westie" has had a colourful career, often hitting the headlines. 

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The comedian reveals why the National Party deputy leader is the perfect candidate for a spoof. Source: Seven Sharp

She was often the butt of comedian Tom Sainsbury's jokes in his satirical impersonation videos. The bowl latte-drinking, panini-eating character with the catch cry 'Hi sweeties, it's me, Paula Bennett' was the one Mr Sainsbury had "the best reaction... she's the one everyone reacted to the best and the most". 

Simon Bridges accidentally called her 'Paula Benefit' on multiple occasions. 

As Social Development Minister in 2012, Ms Bennett told now-Prime Minister to "zip it, sweetie". 

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Ms Bennett held up a 14 gram bag of oregano to show how much cannabis people would be able to buy if it’s legalised. Source: 1 NEWS

Last year she brought a 14 gram bag of oregano, which was not clarified at the time, to demonstrate how much cannabis people would be able to buy daily if it was legalised. The move saw Speaker Trevor Mallard to tell her and Ms Ardern to "chill out". 

Recently, Ms Bennett was asked for comment when the new leadership team incorrectly described their finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith as Māori. She burst out laughing and said, "Paul? OK, right".