Brownlee offers to resign over airport drama

TRACY WATKINS, HAMISH RUTHERFORD, MICHAEL FOX, LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 17:43 24/07/2014
Stuff.co.nz

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee has offered his resignation after skipping airport security while running late for his flight.

Opinion poll

Should Gerry Brownlee resign for breaching security?

Yes

No

Vote Result

Brownlee
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ Zoom
Gerry Brownlee, Kaumatua Rangikotuku Rukuwai and MP Jonathan Young turn the first sod for the Vickers to City Waiwhakaiho upgrade in Taranaki in July.

Related Links

Beehive Live: July 24, 2014 Blunder a case of second-term-itis? The ups and downs of National and its allies Top 10 Gerry Brownlee gaffes

Relevant offers

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee's office has confirmed an investigation is under way into today's airport security breach.

Brownlee has denied barging past airport security, in an incident he has offered his resignation over.


Did you witness the incident? Email us at newstips@stuff.co.nz


Sent written questions about the incident at Christchurch International Airport, a spokesman for Brownlee said he could not answer questions while the matter was being investigated.

"The matter is being investigated by the relevant authorities and he's got no further comment at this time," the spokesman said in an email, without immediately providing details of who was investigating.

However, this evening the Civil Aviation Authority confirmed it was conducting an investigation into the security breach.

Graeme Harris, Director of Civil Aviation, announced he was launching an investigation into "an alleged security breach at Christchurch airport" this morning.

"It has been alleged that the Minister of Transport and two of his staff did not go through normal security screening.

"The CAA was advised of an incident at Christchurch airport this morning and I have launched an investigation into what occurred," Harris said in a statement.

"The primary focus for the CAA is to determine the facts of the incident and take action to prevent something like this happening again.”

Prime Minister John Key said he was "very disappointed" but did not accept Brownlee's resignation.

Key accepted it was not a good look for a transport minister but he had considered "whether six years of incredibly hard work should all be washed away because of one really silly action".

No-one was trying to brush off the mistake, Key said.

"He was in a hurry, he wasn't really thinking about it and I don't think he quite realised what was happening, but nevertheless, lots of people are in a hurry and run the risk of missing a plane. That's not an acceptable excuse." 

In a statement, Brownlee said he had been running late for a plane at Christchurch Airport and "without thought breached airport and airline security rules by entering the gate lounge through a door usually used for exit only".

"Running late for a plane is no excuse for bypassing a security check," he said.

"In doing this I have broken aviation rules and put individuals who hold responsible positions in upholding public security in a compromised position.

"My actions were thoughtless and I unreservedly apologise to those people who felt, and were, compromised by my actions.

"No-one else is to blame. I have offered my resignation as the Minister of Transport to the prime minister."

A spokeswoman for Key said the prime minister had spoken to Brownlee and indicated disappointment in his actions.

"He has reflected on the significant contribution Minister Brownlee has made over time and decided on balance, not to accept his resignation," the spokeswoman said.

Ad Feedback

Brownlee denied he barged past security or that he had acted in an arrogant manner.

He said he "never gave it any thought".

"It was just we were in a hurry to get on the plane, I wanted to get back here," referring to Wellington.

He said one airport staff member was at the door but did not challenge him. Brownlee denied he used his influence to get past.

"We knocked on the door and I said to the guy 'look we're in a terrible hurry, can we get through here' he said 'okay' but in reality I should never have done that ... it's not that guy's fault. I'm the one to blame here."

He denied allegations he told the man the rules had changed.

"I've got to accept that when a person who's got a role like that sees a minister turn up they sort of think it's probably going to be okay, so I really don't want that guy getting in trouble."

He said he had offered his resignation because he had put the staff member and the airport in a tricky situation, and because he was responsible for aviation security as minister of transport.

Brownlee said he knew that under current regulations all the people on the plane should have been taken off and re-screened, because he had not gone through security.

"I didn't think about it ... that's the trouble," he said.

"It was a thoughtless act on my part and I'm not making any excuses for it."

He said he had never done it before.

Brownlee revealed that two staff members came with him through the door.

"It gets worse and worse, as you put it," he said.

"Look, we fly all the time it was just one of those things where I thought right, I want to get to the gate, I'm in a hurry and crazy.

"I shouldn't have done it. I accept that."

He was not aware that he had broken the rules until someone from the Civil Aviation Authority contacted him.

"I hadn't considered that there was a particular problem," he said

He did not think the door had any markings on it but he could not be sure. He did not know how much time he had saved himself by avoiding security.

A spokeswoman for Christchurch Airport said they had no comment to make as it was an issue for Aviation Security.

Aviation Security said they were investigating the incident and would have more information to release later.

Labour's transport spokesman Phil Twyford said Brownlee should be subject to the same legal consequences as a member of the public for breaching aviation security.

Brownlee should be held accountable, Twyford said.

"I think that this is ultimately an issue for the Prime Minister and he has to be held accountable to his promise that he was going to hold his ministers to a higher standard of accountability, so I think if the aviation personnel were compromised by this and anyone does lose their job then I think the public would take a pretty dim view of that."

- Comments are now closed on this article.

- Stuff

Comments

Special offers
Opinion poll

What should we do about cycle safety in Christchurch?

Build segregated cycle lanes on all major roads.

Ban cyclists from riding on the road.

Educate drivers and cyclists about safety.

Vote Result

Related story: Cyclist hit by car on Lincoln Rd

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content

Contact Us Press

• Newsroom 03-943 2827 or email reporters@press.co.nz
• Classified Ads: 03-3778778 or email goclassifieds@press.co.nz
• Display and Online Ads: 03-3648285 or email ad.sales@press.co.nz
• General inquiries: 03 379 0940
Subscribe to The Press
• Deliveries, subscriptions, holiday stop/starts: 03 364 8464, or email: news.sales@press.co.nz
• No paper or holiday stop/starts: action online
• Buy a photo
• Newspaper subscribers - register for the digital edition
• Make press.co.nz your homepage

Zest Food Awards promo

2014 Zest Food Awards

Click here to vote for your favourite cafe, bar or restaurant

Press supplements

At Home, I Do, Avenues, Winter Style

Read Press extras for Avenues, fashion, home design and weddings

Celebrations

Celebrations

Births, weddings, engagements

Death notices

Death notices

Death notices and in memoriam