Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Key to take phone call from Donald Trump today and tour quake-hit regions

Prime Minister John Key expects to take a phone call from Donald Trump today - and will give the United States President-elect an update on New Zealand's earthquake recovery.

Key spoke to the Herald and answered questions from readers yesterday shortly after a large aftershock rattled Parliament while Finance Minister Bill English was speaking in the House.

He said his office had been told on Saturday that Trump would call in the next couple days, but he missed the call amid the "hurly burly" of earthquake recovery on Monday.

"They are well and truly aware of the earthquakes, because in the voice message that they left for me they made it clear that they understood we were going through some very challenging times and they offered their deepest sympathy."

Key had not heard from US President Barack Obama yet, but will see him in person this weekend at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) leaders' summit in Lima, Peru.

The US has offered two helicopters to the New Zealand Defence Force to help evacuate the hundreds of people stranded in Kaikoura.

The choppers are from the destroyer USS Sampson, which is in New Zealand for the Royal New Zealand Navy's 75th anniversary.

"I think it is a really touching gesture from the Americans, and just shows what great friends we are," Key said.

"I already knew that the USS Sampson had two helicopters on it because that was part of the briefing I signed off on when I agreed that the ship should be allowed in New Zealand."

However, one change in the US-New Zealand relationship under a Trump presidency is likely to be an agreement on free trade.

Key has conceded that Trump's opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade deal between 12 Pacific Rim countries meant it was unlikely to be ratified.

The enabling legislation for the TPP passed its final reading at Parliament last night, but will only take effect upon ratification.

Key said he would raise the TPP in today's phone call with Trump and make a "pitch" that it was in the US' interests to get on board.

"I don't think they should leave that void for a long period of time because I think in the end that void could or would get filled," Key said.

All questions put to Government ministers in question time yesterday related to the recent earthquakes and the recovery process.

English was answering the second question when there was an interjection he couldn't ignore - a 5.6 magnitude that rattled the precinct.

After pausing, English was asked a follow-up question, and said, "this time I'll be more careful about what I say".

Earlier, Labour leader Andrew Little referenced his trip this week to Kaikoura with Key and other officials, and said the immediate response of locals he had met was to "take the situation in their stride", and check on elderly neighbours and stranded tourists.

"Kiwis rose to the occasion and expressed the best of Kiwi values ... we look forward to working with the Government to support and sustain communities most affected by this disaster."

- NZ Herald

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