Gerry Brownlee

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The Honourable
Gerry Brownlee
Gerry Brownlee 2014-11-24.jpg
Leader of the House
Assumed office
19 November 2008
Prime Minister John Key
Preceded by Michael Cullen
Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery
Assumed office
7 September 2010
Prime Minister John Key
Preceded by Position established
Minister of Defence
Assumed office
6 October 2014
Prime Minister John Key
Preceded by Jonathan Coleman
Minister for Transport
In office
12 December 2011 – 6 October 2014
Prime Minister John Key
Preceded by Steven Joyce
Succeeded by Simon Bridges
Minister of Energy and Resources
In office
19 November 2008 – 14 December 2011
Prime Minister John Key
Preceded by David Parker
Succeeded by Phil Heatley
Deputy Leader of National Party
In office
17 November 2003 – 27 November 2006
Leader Don Brash
Preceded by Nick Smith
Succeeded by Bill English
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Ilam
Assumed office
12 October 1996
Preceded by Seat Established
Personal details
Born (1956-02-04) 4 February 1956 (age 60)
Christchurch, New Zealand
Nationality New Zealand
Political party National Party
Relations Mark Brownlee (uncle)
Scott Brownlee (cousin)
Alma mater St Bede's College
Occupation Teacher
Committees Privileges Committee (Deputy Chairperson)

Gerard Anthony "Gerry" Brownlee (born 4 February 1956[1]) is a New Zealand politician. He served from 17 November 2003 to 27 November 2006 as deputy-leader of the National Party – during that period the second-largest party in the New Zealand Parliament, and thus forming the core of the Opposition. In November 2008 he became the third-ranked Minister in John Key's coalition cabinet. Brownlee currently serves as Leader of the House, Minister of Defence, and Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery.

Personal biography[edit]

Born in Christchurch, Brownlee has lived there ever since. His father, saw miller Leo Brownlee, died in 1989. His mother is Mary Brownlee.[2] One of his father's younger brothers, Mark Brownlee, represented New Zealand in rowing at the Summer Olympic Games in 1964 and 1968.[3] Mark Brownlee's son Scott Brownlee, who is thus Gerry Brownlee's cousin, represented New Zealand in rowing at the Olympics in 1992, 1996, and 2000.[4]

After leaving high school, Gerry Brownlee worked in his family's timber business, and received training in carpentry. Later he qualified as a teacher. He then taught woodwork and crafts at high-school level at Ellesmere College, and later at St Bede's College (which he himself had attended as a pupil). At St Bede's he taught woodwork, technical drawing and Māori.[5]

Member of Parliament[edit]

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate List Party
1996–1999 45th Ilam 47 National
1999–2002 46th Ilam 36 National
2002–2005 47th Ilam 9 National
2005–2008 48th Ilam 2 National
2008–2011 49th Ilam 3 National
2011–2014 50th Ilam 4 National
2014–present 51st Ilam 4 National

In the 1993 elections, Brownlee stood as the National Party candidate in the Sydenham electorate, where he campaigned—unsuccessfully—against Jim Anderton of the newly formed Alliance. In the 1996 election he contested the nearby seat of Ilam, and won by a comfortable margin. He has remained the MP for Ilam since that point, although his majority declined until making a strong recovery in the 2005 election.

Junior Parliamentary Whip[edit]

In Parliament, Brownlee has served as the National Party's Junior Whip and as its spokesperson on superannuation, energy, transport, local government, and the ACC.

Civil assault[edit]

Brownlee received criticism during the 1999 election campaign when he ejected Neil Able, a 60-year-old Native Forest Action campaigner, from the National Party's 1999 election campaign launch. The ejection took place with what many, including watching journalists, considered excessive force. Neil Able started civil assault proceedings against Brownlee, seeking damages of $60,000. In 2002, a District Court judge found in favour of Mr Able that Brownlee had "used excessive and unnecessary force on Mr Abel when he tried to remove him from a staircase handrail". Brownlee was ordered to pay Neil Able $8,500 in damages.[6][7] Brownlee later sought unsuccessfully to have $48,000 of his legal fees reimbursed by the Government.[8]

In Opposition[edit]

In 2003, Phil Goff and Scoop columnist Paulo Politico both considered that Brownlee was a potential challenger to the party leadership of Bill English (2001–2003), as he had run for the deputy leadership position against English in early 2001.[9][10] Eventually, on 28 October 2003, however, English gave way to Don Brash, a former governor of the Reserve Bank. Brownlee then featured high on the list of potential deputy-leaders, but he declined to pursue the position, and on 28 October 2003 Nick Smith became Brash's deputy.

Shortly after his selection, however, Smith opted to take two weeks of stress-leave, saying that the protracted leadership disputes had exhausted him. When Smith returned to Parliament, Brownlee challenged him for the deputy-leadership. Informed of the challenge, Smith resigned, and on 17 November 2003 Brownlee won the caucus vote unopposed. (For an alternative version of events, see Nick Smith.) Initially, Smith alleged that while he was on stress-leave: "a campaign to oust me was conducted in the media while I was under the leader's instructions to make no comment."[11] Audrey Young wrote in the New Zealand Herald that Brownlee and Murray McCully were rumoured to have been behind the campaign to oust Smith as deputy leader.[12]

After becoming a deputy leader, Brownlee continued his confrontational and colourful style of political debate. Following the controversy surrounding Brash's Orewa Speech of 27 January 2004, Brownlee became the National Party's spokesman for Maori Affairs in place of Georgina te Heuheu, who resigned from the position after refusing to endorse party-leader Brash's comments. Brownlee's approach to this portfolio involved criticising the government's policies regarding perceived special treatment for Māori, an issue at the core of National's 2005 election manifesto.

After the resignation of former National Party Leader of the Opposition Don Brash (27 November 2006), internal party discussion apparently ensued over the post of deputy parliamentary party leader. Bill English, Simon Power and Judith Collins all appeared to aspire to the position.[13]

On 26 November 2006, Brownlee announced that he would step aside as Deputy Leader. A special National Party caucus meeting confirmed the proposed new hierarchy the following day. On 1 December 2006 John Key confirmed Brownlee as the third-ranked National Party MP with responsibility for Energy, SOEs, and State Services; the Shadow Leader of the House, and the chair of the National Party's Strategy Committee.

Ministerial portfolios in the Fifth National Government[edit]

On 19 November 2008, Brownlee was appointed as the Minister of Economic Development, Minister of Energy and Resources[14] and as Associate Minister for the Rugby World Cup.[citation needed]

Brownlee was appointed as a member of the Executive Council of New Zealand[15] and became The Hon. Gerard Anthony Brownlee M.P. Brownlee also became the Leader of the House, making him responsible for the schedule of Government business, allocating time for non-governmental and opposition business to be presented to the house and announcing the Business Statement for the Parliamentary sitting dates to the house and its members.

On 29 March 2011, Brownlee was appointed to the Office of Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery.[16]

Mining in conservation areas[edit]

In August 2009, Brownlee was criticised by Forest and Bird Spokesperson Kevin Hackwell for playing down government discussions to possibly allow more mining within conservation areas. Mr Hackwell was reported as stating that "If the Government's to go down this line they could be buying a fight with the people of the Coromandel, with the people of New Zealand generally, who have put these areas aside and want them protected for their conservation values".[17] The New Zealand mining industry was reported as welcoming the move.[18] In early December 2009, Forest and Bird released a leaked document that included the proposal to remove part of the conservation status of Mount Aspiring National Park to allow mining.[19] The result of the controversy was that the government decided not to explore considerations amongst significant debate on the issue in the House, in submissions to the Select Committees and within the National Party's own parliamentary caucus.[20]

On the withdrawal Brownlee stated "I suspect few New Zealanders knew the country had such considerable mineral potential before we undertook this process, and I get a sense that New Zealanders are now much more aware of that potential". He went on that it might contribute to economic growth and further stated that "New Zealanders have given the minerals sector a clear mandate to go and explore that land, and where appropriate, within the constraints of the resource consent process, utilise its mineral resources for everyone's benefit". An additional announcement from Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson pronounced that future National Park land would receive protections, stating that, "This is an added layer of protection for New Zealand's most highly valued conservation land..."[21]

Earthquake Recovery Minister[edit]

After the Canterbury earthquake of 4 September 2010, Brownlee, as the senior Christchurch-based Minister, was appointed Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery on 7 September 2010. The role has given Brownlee substantial powers in supervising and coordinating the involvement of central government, local government, and the private sector in rebuilding Christchurch.

On 14 September 2010, Brownlee introduced the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act 2010 into the house with leave to pass the legislation in one sitting. This Bill was passed by the time the House adjourned at 10.02 pm.[22] In 2012, it was reported that the idea of using part of Christchurch's red zone for an international rowing regatta course known as East Lake had found the support of Brownlee as Earthquake Recovery Minister.[23]

Comments about Finland[edit]

In March 2012 Brownlee made controversial comments about Finland, after he suggested during a parliamentary session that Finns are uneducated, unemployed murderers who don't respect women. With his comments Brownlee rejected New Zealand Labour Party's plans to model the economy on Finland, and added that Finland "has worse unemployment than us, has less growth than us, can hardly feed the people who live there, has a terrible homicide rate, hardly educates its people, and has no respect for women."

Brownlee's comments were debated in Finnish media with Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja stating that Finland would not take any action as the comments were clearly a device for internal politics rather than an attack on Finland. He continued to say: "I doubt he even knows where Finland is."[24]

Christchurch Airport security incident[edit]

In November 2014 Brownlee was fined $2000 by New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority for a breach of airport security that occurred at Christchurch Airport on 24 July 2014. An official inquiry found that Brownlee and two of his aides had evaded airport security screening by entering a departure lounge through an exit door while in a rush to board a domestic flight.[25]

Other notable activities as an MP[edit]

In April 2013, Prime Minister John Key was invited to attend to the funeral of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, but declined, instead sending Brownlee.[26]

Brownlee voted against the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry in New Zealand.[27]


  1. ^ Alister Taylor (2001). New Zealand Who's Who Aotearoa 2001 Edition. Alister Taylor Publishers. p. 177. ISSN 1172-9813. 
  2. ^ Wright, Michael (27 February 2016). "Gerry Brownlee, the making of the man in charge". Retrieved 21 September 2016. 
  3. ^ "Mark Brownlee". Olympics at Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 21 September 2016. 
  4. ^ "Scott Brownlee". Olympics at Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 21 September 2016. 
  5. ^ Young, Audrey (21 November 2003). "Gerry Brownlee, upstart with the big voice". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 25 January 2016. 
  6. ^ "'Humbled' MP accepts ruling on assault case". The New Zealand Herald. 16 March 2002. Archived from the original on 16 April 2012. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  7. ^ Thompson, Alastair (15 March 2002). "Gerry Brownlee MP Ordered To Pay $8500 For Assault". 
  8. ^ Trevett, Claire (7 April 2012). "We're paying for MPs' legal bills, but it's a secret". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 15 April 2012. 
  9. ^ Phil Goff (10 January 2003). "Brownlee u-turn on nukes motivated by ambition". Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade New Zealand Government. Retrieved 15 August 2010. 
  10. ^ Paulo Politico (10 January 2003). "Brownlee's Uranium Breath Leadership Challenge". Scoop News. Retrieved 15 August 2010. 
  11. ^ NZPA (17 November 2003). "Smith resigns after losing confidence of National Party leader". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 15 August 2010. 
  12. ^ Young, Audrey (18 November 2003). "McCully at centre of Nats whisper row". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 15 August 2010. The whisper goes that Mr McCully was so appalled that new leader Don Brash backed Dr Smith for the deputy leadership over Ilam MP Gerry Brownlee that as soon as Dr Smith had been bundled out of the building Mr McCully and Mr Brownlee began a campaign to ensure that Dr Brash would never want him back. 
  13. ^ Larkin, Juliet (27 November 2006). "Bill English to accept deputy role". Southland Times. Retrieved 15 August 2010. [dead link]
  14. ^ "Appointment of Ministers" (21 November 2008) 179 New Zealand Gazette 4634.
  15. ^ "Members of Executive Council Appointed" (21 November 2008) 179 New Zealand Gazette 4634.
  16. ^ "Appointment of Minister" (29 March 2011) The New Zealand Gazette 984.
  17. ^ NZCity (1 December 2009). "Brownlee talks down mining plan". NZ City. 
  18. ^ NZ City/ Newstalk ZB (27 August 2009). "Conservation land could be mined – Govt". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 15 September 2010. 
  19. ^ NZPA (1 December 2009). "Leaked report recommends mining option for Mt Aspiring". The New Zealand Herald. 
  20. ^ Tracey Wakins & Vernon Small (23 March 2010). "Cracks Appear in Mining Plan". The Manawatu Standard. Retrieved 15 September 2010. 
  21. ^ Business Desk (20 July 2010). "Brownlee mining dream in tatters". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 15 September 2010. 
  22. ^ Hansard (14 September 2010). "Daily Progress of the House for Tuesday 14 September". Hansard and Parliamentary journals. 
  23. ^ "Could a water theme revitalise the east?". The Press. 18 August 2012. Retrieved 21 September 2016. 
  24. ^ "Kohuministerin Suomihaukut" (in Finnish). Iltalehti. Retrieved 2012-03-27. 
  25. ^ Rutherford, Hamish (18 November 2014). "Gerry Brownlee fined for airport security breach". Archived from the original on 18 November 2014. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  26. ^ "Govt sends Brownlee to Thatcher's funeral". 3 News NZ. April 12, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Gay marriage: How MPs voted". NZ Herald. 18 April 2013. Retrieved 3 December 2016. 

External links[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
New constituency Member of Parliament for Ilam
Party political offices
Preceded by
Roger Sowry
Deputy Leader of the National Party
Succeeded by
Bill English
Political offices
Preceded by
Pete Hodgson
Minister for Economic Development
Succeeded by
Steven Joyce
Preceded by
David Parker
Minister of Energy and Resources
Succeeded by
Phil Heatley
Preceded by
Steven Joyce
Minister of Transport
Succeeded by
Simon Bridges
Preceded by
Michael Cullen
Leader of the House
New title Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery
New title Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission