Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

PM's Pacific tour: Hard questions for Key in Niue

Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Peter Meecham
Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Peter Meecham

If Prime Minister John Key expected to be asked the soft questions when he bowled up for Question Time with school children in Niue yesterday, he was sorely disappointed.

Mr Key arrived at the school to a stirring song by the students, after which things got tougher.

He spent half an hour taking questions from the school children, who showed a healthy scepticism about politicians.

The questions included Mr Key's views on whether he agreed politicians were good liars, whether Niue's government was handling its aid money wisely, and whether it was appropriate for a country's leader to hold multiple portfolios -- an apparent reference to Niue's Premier, Toke Talagi. Mr Key was also asked for his thoughts on Chinese people being offered residency in Niue despite its lack of facilities to accommodate them.

It was little wonder that Mr Talagi was a no-show.

Unfortunately for Mr Key however, Opposition MPs David Shearer and Metiria Turei were in the front row of the audience, and more than happy to provide the interjections.

When Mr Key suggested they might have a view on whether he was a good liar, Mr Shearer was quick to offer one: "he's a first-class liar."

When Mr Key started talking about his past life as an investment banker, and how seriously New Zealand took climate change, Turei rolled her eyes.

Mr Key managed to steer through most the questions without causing any great controversy.

When asked what his advice was for aspiring politicians, he got his own back on the front row Opposition MPs, telling the audience his best advice was "join the National Party."

Mr Key said New Zealand currently gave about $17 million in aid to Niue, about half that of Samoa and Tonga. However, on a per capita basis it looked better. Samoa got $250 per person, Tonga got $400. "And in Niue we give $18,000 for every Niuean. So, it's a pretty good deal if you're Niuean."

Mr Key also met with Niue's Premiere Toke Talagi to discuss the tourism development funding New Zealand was putting into Niue and open its new airport building.

He said he was pleased to see there had been some apparent growth in the tourism market in Niue, identified as its largest potential revenue earner.

His visit coincided with the 'Round the Rock' cycle rally, attended by a group of cyclists from Nelson and Tonga. Niue currently has about 7000 tourists a year and the aim is to lift that to 10,000.

- NZ Herald

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