Brownlee hands over aviation duties

By Derek Cheng

Gerry Brownlee - pictured back in the debating chamber of Parliament yesterday - is under investigation by the Civil Aviation Authority. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Gerry Brownlee - pictured back in the debating chamber of Parliament yesterday - is under investigation by the Civil Aviation Authority. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee is giving up the aviation security share of his portfolio while the Civil Aviation Authority investigates his deliberate bypassing of airport security yesterday.

Mr Brownlee was running late for a flight at Christchurch Airport when he and two officials side-stepped security screening by entering the gate lounge through an exit door, which was attended by an airport staff member.

He denied telling the staff member that there was no issue with them going through the door.

He did not consider it a major matter until he was contacted by the authority. He then offered his resignation to Prime Minister John Key - which was swiftly rejected.

The Labour Party appeared to give the matter little weight, not calling for Mr Brownlee's head, and joking in the House about the chances of Mr Brownlee running anywhere.

The Director of Civil Aviation, Graeme Harris, confirmed the alleged security breach.

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

It remains unclear what law or rule may have been broken. A security area breach can only apply if the person refuses to identify themselves, or refuses to leave if asked by a security officer.

The law contains a general trespass offence but it cannot apply if permission to be there was granted - which Mr Brownlee claims it was.

Mr Brownlee has delegated the aviation security aspects of his portfolio to Associate Transport Minister Michael Woodhouse.

If passengers board a plane without being screened, the plane and departure lounge are meant to be cleared and everyone should pass through security again.

Mr Brownlee said he would fully co-operate with the investigation.

The Prime Minister said he was "very disappointed", but it was not a sackable offence.

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additional reporting: Kurt Bayer

- NZ Herald

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