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Hon Anne Tolley was first elected to Parliament on the National Party list in 1999 and won the seat of East Coast in 2005. She was re-elected as MP for East Coast in the 2008, 2011, and 2014 General Elections. The East Coast is a large and diverse electorate, which stretches from Gisborne, around East Cape, across to Te Puke, and down to the top of the Rotorua lakes. 

At the 2014 General Election, Mrs Tolley was appointed Minister for Social Development. She is focussed on reducing the number of people with long-term welfare dependence, improving New Zealand’s child protection system, and addressing family and sexual violence. In December 2016, she was also appointed as Minister for Children and Minister of Local Government.

Mrs Tolley is overseeing the establishment of the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, which will replace Child, Youth and Family from April 2017. Instead of simply responding to a crisis, it will take a long-term view of the safety and wellbeing of children and young people. She is also a co-chair of the Ministerial Group on Family Violence and Sexual Violence, which is leading a cross-government approach to family and sexual violence. 

At the 2011 General Election, Mrs Tolley was appointed Minister of Police and Minister of Corrections. Mrs Tolley focused on preventing crime through the introduction of new technology and ensuring Police spend more time on the frontline when crime is most likely to occur. This resulted in New Zealand’s crime rate falling to a 35-year low.

Mrs Tolley also set an ambitious target of reducing re-offending by 25 per cent by 2017. She oversaw a huge increase in the number and range of drug and alcohol, education, and rehabilitation programmes provided by the Department of Corrections, and re-offending rates had fallen by 12 per cent in 2014.

Mrs Tolley became New Zealand’s first female Minister of Education, Minister for Tertiary Education, and Minister Responsible for the Education Review Office after the 2008 General Election, and then Minister of Education and Minister Responsible for the Education Review Office in 2010.

In her education portfolios, Mrs Tolley focused on lifting student achievement and giving young people the best possible start in life. She implemented the ground-breaking National Standards, and the Government’s Youth Guarantee Scheme and Trades Academies, which provides targeted 16 and 17-year-olds with an opportunity to participate in a range of vocational courses free of charge. 

Mrs Tolley and her husband Allan live in Ohope. They have three adult children and four grandchildren. She is a former Hawke’s Bay Regional Councillor, a Napier City Councillor, and was the Deputy Mayor of Napier City for six years.