Anne Tolley

The Honourable
Anne Tolley
Minister of Social Development
Assumed office
13 October 2014
Prime Minister John Key
Preceded by Paula Bennett
44th Minister of Education
In office
19 November 2008  25 November 2011
Prime Minister John Key
Preceded by Chris Carter
Succeeded by Hekia Parata
Minister for Tertiary Education
In office
19 November 2008  27 January 2010[1]
Prime Minister John Key
Preceded by Pete Hodgson
Succeeded by Steven Joyce
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for National Party list
In office
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for East Coast
Assumed office
Preceded by Janet Mackey
Majority 6,413
Personal details
Born Anne Merrilyn Hicks
(1953-03-01) 1 March 1953
Wellington, New Zealand
Political party National Party
Spouse(s) Allan Hunt Tolley (m. 1973)
Children Three
Occupation Hotelier, Local Government

Anne Merrilyn Tolley JP MP (née Hicks, born 1 March 1953) is a New Zealand politician. and is a member of the New Zealand House of Representatives representing the National Party. With the formation of the Fifth National Government in late 2008, she became the Minister of Education, the first woman ever to assume the role.

Early life and family

Tolley was born in Wellington on 1 March 1953, the daughter of Mary Margaret Hicks (née Norris) and her husband Ronald James Hicks. She was educated at Colenso High School (now William Colenso College) in Napier, and spent time as a Rotary exchange student in Allentown, Pennsylvania, United States. She went on to gain a diploma in computer programming. In 1973 she married Allan Hunt Tolley, and the couple had three children.[2]

Local-body politics

In 1986 Tolley was elected as a member of the Napier City Council and remained in that role until 1995. She served as deputy mayor of Napier between 1989 and 1995, and was an elected member of the Hawke's Bay Regional Council from 1989 to 1992. She has been a Justice of the Peace since 1989.[2]

Parliamentary career

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate List Party
19992002 46th List 20 National
20052008 48th East Coast 43 National
20082011 49th East Coast 10 National
20112014 50th East Coast 8 National
2014  present 51st East Coast 12 National

Tolley represents the East Coast electorate, including Whakatane, Ōhope Beach, Opotiki, and Gisborne districts. She acted as the first woman National Party Whip from December 2006 until February 2008 when she became the party's Education Spokeswoman after Katherine Rich stood down from the shadow portfolio.

She was first an MP from 1999 to 2002, representing the National Party. She was elected in the 1999 elections as a list MP, having unsuccessfully contested the Napier seat against Labour's Geoff Braybrooke. In the 2002 elections, she unsuccessfully contested Napier against Braybrooke's successor, Russell Fairbrother. Along with many other National MPs, Tolley did not escape the collapse of the party's vote that year, and so did not return to Parliament as a list MP.

In the 2005 General Election she successfully contested the East Coast Electorate, beating Labour Candidate Moana Mackey, daughter of the previous East Coast MP Janet Mackey. Tolley also beat the Deputy Leader of the United Future Party, who stood in the electorate for the fifth time.

Minister of Education: 2008–2011

As Minister of Education, Tolley was given responsibility for making schools more accountable "so that parents and pupils get the most from them".[3] This led to a battle with teachers over the introduction of a range of new proposals including a requirement for schools to report National Standards results. The proposals were bitterly opposed by many teachers and school principals who refused to implement the standards.[4]

In June 2010 Tolley became upset at a paper published by the Parliamentary Library research paper critical of National Standards which suggested teachers would need professional development assistance and support that may not be adequately provided for under the standards. She labeled the paper as "unprofessional", "highly political" and so biased it could have been written by the union opposing the policy.[5] The research paper turned out to be quite accurate. A month later the New Zealand Principals Federation voted to support regional associations which boycotted training for national standards. Tolley responded by telling principals they should stop talking to the media.[6]

The stand-off between Tolley and teachers was embarrassing for the Government and after National was re-elected to power in November 2011, Prime Minister John Key reshuffled his cabinet.[7] Hekia Parata was made Education Minister while Tolley was demoted in the party hierarchy becoming Minister of Corrections and Police.[8] She took over the role from Judith Collins who moved up the rankings to become Minister of Justice - filling the vacancy created by the retirement of Simon Power from parliament.[9]

Minister of Corrections: 2011–2014

In March 2012, one of her first announcements as the Minister of Corrections was the proposed closure of the old prisons in Wellington and New Plymouth. She also said that a number of older units at Arohata, Rolleston, Rangipo and Waikeria prisons would close.[10] Under her watch, the Government awarded a 25-year contract to Serco to build a 960-bed prison at Wiri, at a cost of NZ$900 million, when there are already 1,200 empty beds in the prison system.[11] The spare capacity will exist even after the Corrections Department closes older prisons at Wellington and New Plymouth.[12] Later in the year she attended a sod-turning ceremony at the site of the new 960-bed prison to be built in Wiri, South Auckland.[13]

In December 2012 Tolley oversaw the announcement by Corrections chief executive, Ray Smith, to pay Susan Couch $300,000 in punitive damages. Couch was seriously injured by William Bell who killed three people at the RSA in Panmure and left Susan Couch for dead while being supervised by the Probation Service.[14]


It emerged in 2010 that Tolley had undergone gastric bypass (stomach stapling) surgery in order to lose weight.[15] Tolley joins other current and former New Zealand politicians including Rahui Katene, David Lange, Chester Borrows, Donna Awatere-Huata and Tariana Turia to have had gastric bypass surgery at some point in the past.


  1. "John Key announces Cabinet reshuffle". The New Zealand Herald. 26 January 2010. Retrieved 26 January 2010.
  2. 1 2 Taylor, Alister, ed. (2001). New Zealand Who's Who Aotearoa 2001. Auckland: Alister Taylor Publishers. ISSN 1172-9813.
  3. Editorial: Trust parents with the facts about schools, NZ Herald 22 November 2011
  4. Principals reject education policy
  5. Young, Audrey (30 June 2010). "Tolley upset at paper on standards". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 16 September 2011.
  6. Minister warns principals against speaking out about standards
  7. "Women move up the Govt ranks". The New Zealand Herald. 13 December 2011.
  8. Romanos, Amelia (12 December 2011). "Boost for women in new Cabinet". The New Zealand Herald.
  9. "Power hands over SOE portfolio". The New Zealand Herald. 13 April 2011.
  10. Minister defends prison closure plans
  11. Clendon, David (21 June 2012). "$900 million for empty beds" (Press release). Wellington: Green Party. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  12. APNZ (23 March 2012). "Minister defends prison closure plans". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  13. Construction begins on $300m prison
  14. Corrections Department pays RSA survivor $300,000
  15. Forbes, Michael (26 January 2010). "Stomach-stapled MPs put weight behind Turia". Stuff. New Zealand. Retrieved 16 September 2011.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Anne Tolley.
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Janet Mackey
Member of Parliament for East Coast
Political offices
Preceded by
Chris Carter
Minister of Education
Succeeded by
Hekia Parata
Preceded by
Judith Collins
Minister of Corrections
Succeeded by
Sam Lotu-Iiga
Preceded by
Paula Bennett
Minister for Social Development
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