Donald Trump has called Prime Minister John Key and offered his sympathies over the Kaikoura earthquake - and to make a strange golf-related request.

The phone call took place this morning. Speaking from Kaikoura where the Prime Minister is inspecting earthquake recovery efforts and meeting locals, Key said the US President-elect was "very warm, very engaging".

"He was very knowledgeable about what was going on, he offered his condolences and support for the people of New Zealand.

"He made reference to the Christchurch earthquakes that had taken place, and spoke fondly of the time he had spent in New Zealand, albeit briefly, many years ago.

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"He said the relationship was in top notch shape, and he was determined to make sure the relationship stayed on the best of footings. He congratulated us on the things that we have achieved in the time that we'd been in Government."

Trump also told Key - who has played golf with US President Barack Obama - that he was also keen on the sport.

"He just mentioned he was a golfer, and he talked quite a bit about [Sir] Bob Charles and his respect for Bob Charles as a golfer. And he asked me to give him a ring, and to pass to Bob his best wishes."

Trump's unusual request comes after he brought up Sir Bob in response to a question from Newshub political editor Patrick Gower in February.

Gower had travelled to the States to cover the lead-up to the election, and asked Trump - then the front-runner to become the Republican nominee - what his presidency would mean for a country like New Zealand.

"Say hello to Bob Charles - I love Bob Charles - do you know who Bob Charles is? Your greatest golfer," Trump replied, before moving on.

Key's office had been told on Saturday that Trump would call in the next couple of days, but the Prime Minister missed the call amidst earthquake recovery on Monday.

Key has conceded that Trump's opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) 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 today that he had brought up trade and the TPP, and his desire to have a fuller discussion about the agreement when Trump had "his feet under the table".

The USS Sampson in 2014. Photo / Supplied
The USS Sampson in 2014. Photo / Supplied

Trump's phone call comes as the destroyer USS Sampson heads to Kaikoura to help with relief effort. Its two helicopters will be used to evacuate people stranded in the town.

The Sampson is in New Zealand for the Royal Navy's 75th anniversary, but will bypass celebrations in Auckland in order to help earthquake recover efforts.