Brownlee should stay as minister: English

Deputy prime minister Bill English speaks at the official opening of a new chairlift at The Remarkables ski area yesterday while NZSki CEO Paul Anderson and ski area manager Ross Lawrence (right) look on. Photo by Guy Williams.
Deputy prime minister Bill English speaks at the official opening of a new chairlift at The Remarkables ski area yesterday while NZSki CEO Paul Anderson and ski area manager Ross Lawrence (right) look on. Photo by Guy Williams.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee had a ''brain explosion'' when he bypassed airport security but did not need to give up the portfolio, deputy prime minister Bill English says.

Speaking in Queenstown yesterday, Mr English said it was unnecessary for his colleague to step down from the transport portfolio despite the incident being investigated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Mr Brownlee and two officials deliberately avoided security screening at Christchurch Airport on Thursday by entering a gate lounge through an exit door, which was attended by an airport staff member.

Prime Minister John Key quickly rejected an offer from Mr Brownlee to resign.

Mr Brownlee had transferred his aviation security responsibilities to associate transport minister Michael Woodhouse, which was the ''right thing to do'', Mr English said.

''It was a bit of a brain explosion, and he certainly wishes it hadn't have happened, and he has to face the consequences.

''I just said `look mate, you've done the right thing in owning up straight away, and with the consequences that follow, you've just got to go with it'.''

He had made his own ''dumb mistakes'' in the past, which made him more understanding of other people's failures.

''But look, the rules are the rules - it doesn't matter whether you're a government minister or not - you've got to keep by the rules.''

He had never been tempted to sneak through a side door at an airport.

''Actually, I didn't know that you could.''

Mr English was speaking at the official opening of a new 1.2km chairlift at The Remarkables ski area. It is part of a $45 million redevelopment that will include a new base building being built during the coming off-season.

He admired NZSki for taking the risk of investing in its business despite the ''head winds'' of the strong New Zealand dollar, he said.

''They don't quite know if it's going to work out, but this is what makes an economy grow.''