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Gerard Anthony Brownlee (born 4 February 1956[1]) is a New Zealand politician of the National Party and the Member of Parliament for Ilam.

Gerry Brownlee

Gerry Brownlee 2017.jpg
Member of Parliament for Ilam
Preceded byPosition established
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Ilam
Assumed office
12 October 1996
Preceded bySeat Established
Personal details
Gerard Anthony Brownlee

(1956-02-04) 4 February 1956 (age 63)
Christchurch, New Zealand
NationalityNew Zealand
Political partyNational Party
RelationsMark Brownlee (uncle)
Scott Brownlee (cousin)
Alma materSt Bede's College
OccupationMember of Parliament
CommitteesPrivileges Committee (Deputy Chairperson)

A Christchurch native, Brownlee worked as a teacher before being elected to Parliament at the 1996 election. He was deputy leader of the National Party from 2003 to 2006, and served various ministerial appointments in the fifth National government, including Leader of the House, Minister of Defence and Minister of Foreign Affairs.

He currently serves as Shadow Leader of the House and is the National Party Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, NZSIS and GCSB. He is ranked 8th on the National Party List.

Personal biographyEdit

Brownlee was born in Christchurch to Leo (a saw miller, who died in 1989) and Mary Brownlee.[2] He is the eldest of five children.[2] His uncle, Mark Brownlee, represented New Zealand in rowing at the Summer Olympic Games in 1964 and 1968,[3] and his cousin Scott Brownlee (Mark's son), represented New Zealand in rowing at the Olympics in 1992, 1996, and 2000.[4]

A Roman Catholic, he attended St Bede's College where he twice failed to gain University Entrance.[5] After leaving high school, he worked in his family's timber business and received training in carpentry. After qualifying as a builder, he retrained as a teacher and taught woodwork, technical drawing and Māori, over a period of twelve years, at Ellesmere College, and at his alma mater, St Bede's.[5]

Member of ParliamentEdit

New Zealand Parliament
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
2014–2017 51st Ilam 4 National
2017–present 52nd Ilam 8 National

In the 1993 election, Brownlee stood as the National Party candidate in the Sydenham electorate, where he campaigned unsuccessfully against Jim Anderton, the Alliance leader. 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.

Brownlee's roles as an MP have included serving as the National Party's Junior Whip, shadow Leader of the House, and as the Party spokesperson on superannuation, energy, transport, local government, Māori affairs, state-owned enterprises, state services, and ACC. He was Don Brash's Deputy Leader from 2003–2006, and has served as a minister and Leader of the House in the Fifth National Government. His most prominent role has been leading the Government's earthquake recovery efforts following the 2010, 2011 and 2016 earthquakes.

In oppositionEdit

Brownlee challenged the vacant deputy leadership of the National Party in 2001, but was defeated by Bill English.[6][7] English eventually succeeded to the leadership later that year. However, by 2003 Brownlee was seen by Labour Party MP Phil Goff and Scoop columnist Paulo Politico as a potential challenger to English's leadership.[8][9] English was eventually replaced as National Party leader by former Reserve Bank Governor Don Brash. Brownlee was thought to be a possible deputy leader to Brash but declined to pursue the position, which went to Nick Smith.

Shortly after his election, 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,[10] Smith resigned, and on 17 November 2003 Brownlee won the caucus vote unopposed. 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 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 in November 2006, internal party discussion apparently ensued over the post of deputy leader.[13] Brownlee stepped aside as deputy leader and the new leader, John Key, appointed confirmed him as the third-ranked National Party MP.

In GovernmentEdit

Following the election of the Fifth National Government in November 2008, Brownlee was appointed a member of the Executive Council of New Zealand[14] and to Cabinet as Minister of Economic Development, Minister of Energy and Resources[15] and as Associate Minister for the Rugby World Cup.[16] He 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.

As the Government's most senior Christchurch-based MP, Brownlee led the Government's work in earthquake recovery after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. Following National's re-election in 2011 and 2014, Brownlee additionally served as Minister of Transport, Minister of Defence, and Minister of Civil Defence.

Brownlee was selected to represent New Zealand in London at the funeral of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.[17]

Brownlee voted against the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry in New Zealand.[18]

Current rolesEdit

Brownlee currently serves as Shadow Leader of the House, and is the National Party Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, NZSIS, and GCSB. He is the Deputy Chairperson on the Privileges, Standing Orders, and Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committees, as well as a member of the Business Committee and the Parliamentary Service Commission.[1]

Controversy and faux pasEdit

In OppositionEdit

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.[19][20] Brownlee later sought unsuccessfully to have $48,000 of his legal fees reimbursed by the Government.[21]

As Minister of Energy and ResourcesEdit

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. 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".[22] The New Zealand mining industry was reported as welcoming the move.[23]

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.[24] 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.[25]

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..."[26]

As Minister for Canterbury Earthquake RecoveryEdit

After the Canterbury earthquake of 4 September 2010, Brownlee, as the senior Christchurch-based Minister[citation needed], 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.[27]

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.[28]

In September 2012, Brownlee accused residents in Christchurch's newly created TC3 zone of "carping and moaning" for comments they made in a survey conducted by the main local newspaper. The comments were about perceived inaction by the authorities, including the government. He apologised soon after.[29]

As Minister of TransportEdit

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" - claims that were clearly unfounded. Brownlee's comments were addressed in Finnish media by 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."[30]

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.[31]

As Foreign MinisterEdit

In May 2017, less than a week after being appointed as Foreign Minister, Brownlee was publicly corrected by the Prime Minister, Bill English, after claiming that a New Zealand-sponsored United Nations Security Council Resolution on Israel (about settlements in occupied territories) was "premature". The Prime Minister said Brownlee was "still getting familiar" with the language used by his predecessor, Murray McCully, who had authorised the sponsorship of the resolution.

The Prime Minister said he had confidence that Brownlee was clear on New Zealand's position now, a position that had not changed since the Government had chosen to push through the resolution.[32] Brownlee had been a cabinet minister at the time.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Alister Taylor (2001). New Zealand Who's Who Aotearoa 2001 Edition. Alister Taylor Publishers. p. 177. ISSN 1172-9813.
  2. ^ a b Wright, Michael (27 February 2016). "Gerry Brownlee, the making of the man in charge". Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  3. ^ Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill. "Mark Brownlee profile". Olympics at Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on 2 December 2016. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 December 2016. Retrieved 21 September 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ a b Young, Audrey (21 November 2003). "Gerry Brownlee, upstart with the big voice". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  6. ^ "Bunfight for deputy Nat leader begins". TVNZ. 1 February 2001. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  7. ^ "English takes National's deputy leader job". New Zealand Herald. 7 February 2001. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Paulo Politico (10 January 2003). "Brownlee's Uranium Breath Leadership Challenge". Scoop News. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
  10. ^ "Brownlee mooted for deputy role". TVNZ. 17 November 2003. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  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. ^ "Power puts hand up for deputy's role". Wanganui Chronicle. 25 November 2006. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  14. ^ "Members of Executive Council appointed". New Zealand Gazette. 21 November 2008. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  15. ^ "Appointment of Ministers". New Zealand Gazette. 21 November 2008. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  16. ^ "Ministerial List for Announcement" (PDF). 17 November 2008. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  17. ^ "Govt sends Brownlee to Thatcher's funeral". 3 News NZ. 12 April 2013.
  18. ^ "Gay marriage: How MPs voted". The New Zealand Herald. 18 April 2013. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  19. ^ "'Humbled' MP accepts ruling on assault case". The New Zealand Herald. 16 March 2002. Archived from the original on 3 February 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
  20. ^ Thompson, Alastair (15 March 2002). "Gerry Brownlee MP Ordered To Pay $8500 For Assault".
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ NZCity (1 December 2009). "Brownlee talks down mining plan". NZ City.
  23. ^ NZ City/Newstalk ZB (27 August 2009). "Conservation land could be mined – Govt". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
  24. ^ NZPA (1 December 2009). "Leaked report recommends mining option for Mt Aspiring". The New Zealand Herald.
  25. ^ Tracey Wakins & Vernon Small (23 March 2010). "Cracks Appear in Mining Plan". The Manawatu Standard. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
  26. ^ Business Desk (20 July 2010). "Brownlee mining dream in tatters". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
  27. ^ Hansard (14 September 2010). "Daily Progress of the House for Tuesday 14 September". Hansard and Parliamentary journals.
  28. ^ "Could a water theme revitalise the east?". The Press. 18 August 2012. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  29. ^ Wright, Michael (12 September 2012). "Brownlee apologises for 'moaning' comments" – via
  30. ^ "Kohuministerin Suomihaukut" (in Finnish). Iltalehti. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  31. ^ Rutherford, Hamish (18 November 2014). "Gerry Brownlee fined for airport security breach". Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
  32. ^ Kirk, Stacey. "Gerry Brownlee 'premature' in making Israel comments: Prime Minister Bill English". Fairfax. Retrieved 8 May 2017.

External linksEdit

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
Succeeded by
Simon Bridges
Preceded by
Murray McCully
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Winston Peters
New title Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Succeeded by
Megan Woods
New title Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission Succeeded by
Megan Woods
Preceded by
Nikki Kaye
Minister of Civil Defence
Succeeded by
Nathan Guy