CAA to investigate own minister's actions
HAMISH RUTHERFORD AND MICHAEL FOX
Prime Minister John Key has denied Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee is above the law after refusing to cut him loose for boarding a jet without going through security.
Brownlee offered his resignation as minister after admitting he and two staff had used an exit door to enter the gate lounge at Christchurch Airport and board a flight to Wellington.
Key said if Brownlee had fallen foul of the law he would have to "face the consequences of that, like anybody else would".
But he refused to accept his resignation, despite the Civil Aviation Authority confirming it would investigate the incident.
Key confirmed last night that Brownlee had asked for responsibility for CAA to be transferred to his associate minister until the investigation was completed.
Brownlee offered an unreserved apology for the incident which he claimed was prompted by being late for a flight.
"Without thought [I] breached airport and airline security rules by entering the gate lounge through a door usually used for exit only," he said, adding that he did not think about his actions.
"It was just we were in a hurry to get on the plane."
Brownlee, who is also the Earthquake Recovery Minister, said he asked a member of airport security staff if he could go through the one-way door and was allowed to unchallenged.
New Zealand regulations say when a person boards a jet-engined plane without being subject to a security check, the plane should be emptied and passengers should pass through security again.
The pilot was reportedly aware three unauthorised passengers had boarded the plane but flew anyway.
Those found to have breached airport security regulations could be liable to three months' jail or a $2000 fine.
Labour transport spokesman Phil Twyford said Brownlee should be subject to the same legal consequences as a member of the public.
- The Dominion Post