Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

NZ-US relationship 'as good as it's ever been', says outgoing Sec of State John Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unkown Warrior during his visit to the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington. Picture / NZ Herald
US Secretary of State John Kerry lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unkown Warrior during his visit to the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington. Picture / NZ Herald

New Zealand's offer to resettle 150 refugees from Australia remains on the table, the Government says, despite a new offer by the United States to take refugees from Australia's offshore detention centres.

US Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed the one-off resettlement deal with the Australian Government after bilateral talks in Wellington with Prime Minister John Key today.

Speaking at a press conference after their meeting, Kerry said the US would take an unspecified number of refugees based in Australian centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

The refugees were "of special interest" to the United Nations and the US was determined to find a "durable solution" for them, he said.

New Zealand's Immigration Minister, Michael Woodhouse, said the agreement would not affect New Zealand's standing offer to take 150 refugees a year from these sites. The offer has never been taken up by the Australian Government, partly because of concerns it could create a "back-door" route into Australia.

The bilateral talks between Kerry and Key focused on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Iraq-Syria conflict, climate change, and the NZ-US relationship - which Kerry said was "as good as it's ever been".

"You have been a partner in security issues, in counter-terrorism issues, humanitarian issues, South China Sea, climate change, environment, our work together in Antarctica," Kerry said.

He shied away from directly criticising President-elect Donald Trump's denial of climate change, saying it was not for him to speculate on his presidency. But he sent a strongly worded message that the next US Government could not afford to ignore the issue.

"The evidence is mounting in ways that people in public life should not dare to avoid accepting as a mandate for action."

In an apparent dig at politicians who denied climate change was occurring, he said "most kids in high school or even middle school are pretty good at getting a sense that something's happening".

Kerry also underlined the fact that the US first took action on climate change in 1992 under a Republican President, George H.W. Bush.

After Kerry's motorcade made a quick, apparently unplanned stop-off for souvenirs which brought traffic in downtown Wellington to a halt, he attended several events at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park.

He unveiled a plaque at a site for planned US war memorial, which he said was particularly significant given the death of four American soldiers at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan today.It is Kerry's last visit as Secretary of State to New Zealand, a place he first visited in 1968 as a young naval officer after finishing a tour in the Gulf of Tonkin off Vietnam.

"I observed then what I know to be true today, which is that the people of our two nations share similar values, were informed by the history of our defending those values together ... and we are also as people, both of us, inspired by a very optimistic sense of what the future can bring us if we make the right choices and if we sustain this rules-based order that we have developed since World War Two."

- NZ Herald

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