Paula Bennett retires: 'The 17-year-old solo mum who dropped out of school ended up becoming deputy Prime Minister'

National's Paula Bennett today announced she was stepping down from politics at this year's election.

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

Here is her full speech:

Today I am announcing that I will not be standing at the next election.

I have had an incredible time in politics for the past 15 years and now I am looking forward to my next career.

In 2005 I entered politics on the National Party list. I was absolutely thrilled in 2008 when the people of the then seat of Waitakere chose me as their electorate MP, I served them for six years until that seat no longer existed. I then went on to win the seat of Upper Harbour where I have served for the past six years. Being an electorate MP and working on behalf of constituents has been a privilege and it is work I have really enjoyed. I believe Jake Bezzant, the current candidate for Upper Harbour, will do an outstanding job and I wish him all the best in the upcoming election.

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

After just three years as an MP, I became a Cabinet Minister in 2008. I have held 14 portfolios, each bringing their own challenges and achievements. I have many people to thank, too many to rattle off here, but 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.

I became the Minister as we were feeling the brunt of the Global Financial Crisis, vulnerable families and communities needed our immediate help and I ensured they had it. But they also needed hope of a better future for them and their families. I set about reforming the welfare system. With more emphasis on what people could do, increasing our expectation on people to get work ready and look for a job and changing the system so that more help was available for them. The number of sole parents on benefit dropped by more than 30,000 and the number of teen parents effectively halved. This meant tens of thousands of people no longer dependent on the state and living independent lives

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.

I then served as a senior Minister from 2014 in the John Key and Bill English kitchen cabinet and held portfolios ranging from State Services, Associate Finance, Climate Change and Police and I was Deputy Prime Minister when John left and Bill took over.

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

Since the last election until recently I have been the Deputy Leader of the National Party and Campaign Chair. Interestingly, it has been in the past two and a half years that I have 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.