Tony Ryall to retire

TONY RYALL:  Minister of health and state owned enterprises.
TONY RYALL: Minister of health and state owned enterprises.

Tony Ryall has confirmed he will retire at the next election, but remain a government minister until he bows out of politics.

"I am looking forward to being part of New Zealand's dynamic future in the private sector," Ryall said in an announcement today.

Ryall, who is minister of health and of state-owned enterprises, has been in Parliament for 24 years, starting as a backbencher before moving to be an Opposition spokesman and a minister of six portfolios.

"This is the right year for me to leave politics, and I'm up for the next challenge," he said.

"The Government is doing very well and the National Party is in great heart.

"It has been a huge privilege representing the Bay of Plenty since 1990 and having a senior role in [Prime Minister] John Key's high-achieving government. I've greatly enjoyed being in Parliament.

He said he had discussed the decision with Key and Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, and said they were both disappointed but supportive.

"There is still a lot of work to do in both my portfolios and I appreciate the prime minister allowing me to continue my work in Cabinet until the next election," Ryall said.

Former local government minister Chris Tremain has also previously announced he would retire at the election, but stepped down immediately from his ministerial roles.

Ryall entered Parliament as MP for East Cape in 1990 at the age of 26.

Between 1997 and 1999 he was at times minister for state-owned enterprises, minister of local government, minister of youth affairs, and minister of justice.

During the National Party's time in Opposition, he was law and order spokesman (1999-2005), commerce spokesman (2002 - 2003) and health spokesman (2005-2008).

Ryall said he was proud of his achievements throughout his career.

"Our health services have been transformed with a great effort by clinicians and motivated teams across the sector," he said.

"In 2008, the health system was on track to financial ruin but we've turned that around. My more business-like approach has provided more services and better care for patients within a tight budgetary environment."

He said he was particularly proud of achieving "record elective surgery, faster cancer treatment, and more-effective preventive healthcare for New Zealanders".

"Many people underestimate the importance of the health sector in New Zealand which amounts to one-tenth of the economy," he said.

"There are some 70,000 people employed directly in the public health service alone."

He said that as state-owned enterprises minister it had been a pleasure working with English to oversee the Government's share-offer programme.

"Externally, the mixed-ownership model has forced increased scrutiny and debate on the performance of these companies, the service they provide their customers, and of their value to New Zealand," Ryall said.

"Across the wider SOE portfolio I've introduced an on-going series of strategic reviews. These enable the Crown and the board of an entity to consider the longer-term strategy and future direction of each business.

"This has already led to significant improvements and will generate further benefits over time."

National Party President Peter Goodfellow said Ryall had made an "outstanding contribution" to Parliament and the National Party.

"Tony will leave a legacy that very few will match," he said.

"I believe anyone who has worked closely with him would agree with me when I say he is one of the best health ministers this country has seen.

"There are many New Zealanders who are better off today because of his careful stewardship of the portfolio and drive to achieve results that change people's lives.

"Tony will leave at this election with the respect and admiration of colleagues and his opponents alike. I wish him and his family well for whatever new opportunities lie ahead."

Ryall's previous portfolios in the Shipley government included justice, state-owned enterprises, local government, youth affairs, and housing.

Fairfax Media