Brownlee offers resignation after airport security breach

  • Breaking
  • 24/07/2014

By 3 News online staff

An investigation will be launched into Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee's security breach at Christchurch Airport this morning, says director of Civil Aviation Graeme Harris.

Mr Brownlee said he was running late when he went through an exit door – bypassing a security check.

He conceded running late was "no excuse".

"I knocked on the door and I said 'look, we're in a terrible hurry. Can we get through here?' And [a staff member] said 'ok'," he said.

"In reality I should never have done that. It's not that guy's fault. I'm the one to blame here."

He says his actions mean he had broken aviation rules and put people in responsible positions upholding public security in a "compromised position".

"To be honest with you, I never gave it any thought," he said. "It was just we were in a hurry to get back [to Parliament]."

Mr Harris says an investigation will be launched into the incident.

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

The irony of today's situation is Aviation Security Service boss Mark Wheeler was also on board the plane.

An unnamed airport source has told 3 News the plane's pilot was informed of three unauthorised passengers but decided to fly anyway.

The source says the plane should have been offloaded, but it wasn't, and the airport departure lounge cleared, but it wasn't.

Mr Brownlee described his actions as "thoughtless" and said he has offered his resignation as Minister of Transport to Mr Key.

The offer to resign was for a number of reasons, he says.

"I've put the staff member in a terrible position, I've put the airport company in a difficult position and because as the Minister of Transport, you're responsible for aviation security.

"I made a stupid error, and I deeply regret that."

Mr Key said he has spoken to Mr Brownlee and indicated he is "very disappointed" with the actions he took this morning. He has reflected on the significant contribution Mr Brownlee has made over time and decided, on balance, not to accept his resignation.

"In making that decision, I considered the whole matter very seriously. But I'd have to say, I had to weigh up all the tremendous things he's done in the six years as a minister," Mr Key says.

"Lots of people are in a hurry, and lots of people run the risk of missing a plane, that's just not an acceptable excuse."

He says no one is above the law and if Mr Brownlee is charged he'll have to face the consequences like anyone else.

Mr Brownlee says he had never skipped security checks before.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says John Key needs to change his mind and accept the resignation.

"But it's a charade isn't it, offering his resignation for breaching security," he says.

"Is it about taking the heat off around National MP Claudette Hauiti's departure and questions over her spending?"

He believes Mr Brownlee should resign for a number of other reasons, including the ongoing problems with Interislander ferries and the slow Christchurch rebuild.

Christchurch Airport could not be reached for comment in relation to the incident.

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source: newshub archive