Kaikoura is a town redeployed.

For Prime Minister John Key's visit, a local's Honda Odyssey turns into a Crown car.

The school playground has been redeployed as a rental campervan return yard, the playing field at the Kaikoura Rugby Club has become a chopper landing site.

Instead of whale watchers, the ocean awaits an influx of battleships from allies.

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Prime Minister talks about whether emergency legislation might be required in wake of Kaikoura quake

At Civil Defence HQ Key grabs a piece of homemade banana cake and the women worry it is stale because it was made pre-quake.

Much of the attention has gone into getting tourists out in the days after the quake.

The main aim of Key's visit now is to reassure those who will stay behind once they have gone - the local businesses who are praying those tourists will return.

He meets with tourism operators, motel owners, farmers, the local bank, a cheese maker who has appeared on Country Calendar.

Ian Croucher, a charter boat operator, observes the town is dependent on tourism.

"I'm your minister," Key says, referring to his role as Tourism Minister. "I'm not much bloody good to you at the moment," he adds.

"Oh, you're going to be real good to us," Croucher replies.

The New Zealand Navy arrives in Kaikoura with navy personnel surveying South Beach area for best unloading of supplies. Photo / Mike Scott
The New Zealand Navy arrives in Kaikoura with navy personnel surveying South Beach area for best unloading of supplies. Photo / Mike Scott
The PM's Air Force NH-90 flies over HMNZS Canterbury in front of Kaikoura. Photo / Supplied
The PM's Air Force NH-90 flies over HMNZS Canterbury in front of Kaikoura. Photo / Supplied
People wait for the next chopper at Kaikoura's evacuation spot following Monday's devastating earthquake. Photo / Claire Trevett
People wait for the next chopper at Kaikoura's evacuation spot following Monday's devastating earthquake. Photo / Claire Trevett
The HMNZS Canterbury evacuating hundreds of tourist from Kaikoura. Photo / Mike Scott
The HMNZS Canterbury evacuating hundreds of tourist from Kaikoura. Photo / Mike Scott

Key sets out what the Government can do - a special assistance package similar to that used after Christchurch to help to retain staff until things start to recover, tax relief, and possible emergency legislation to bypass resource consent processes for dredging.

When he begins he says the Government has no plans for emergency legislation. By the time he ends he is assuring them of widespread support for it, and saying "If we have to do it, we'll do it," to a round of applause.

They set out their troubles. They rely on tourism, 80 per cent of it international. The tourism season has just begun and now looks very bleak indeed.

A large crowd of tourists and people wanting to leave Kaikoura are briefed about evacuation plans. Photo / Mike Scott
A large crowd of tourists and people wanting to leave Kaikoura are briefed about evacuation plans. Photo / Mike Scott
A large crowd of tourists and people wanting to leave Kaikoura are briefed about evacuation plans. With the HMNZS Canterbury arriving later in the day there are hopes 600 people will leave today. A de
A large crowd of tourists and people wanting to leave Kaikoura are briefed about evacuation plans. With the HMNZS Canterbury arriving later in the day there are hopes 600 people will leave today. A de
NZ Navy starts evacuating tourists from Kaikoura. Photo / Mike Scott
NZ Navy starts evacuating tourists from Kaikoura. Photo / Mike Scott

Nobody can get in or out and the road north could take months to fix if not longer.

On the helicopter, Key pointed out one stretch of that highway to Transport Minister Simon Bridges and said it looked as if the entire mountain had moved and he could not see how it could be put back together again.

There were concerns about the quake raising the sea bed.

The business owners also worry that the quake will put people off returning to Kaikoura and they want his help getting the right messages out.

He assures them he knows the importance of that - it was the same for Christchurch. He does not put a gloss on it, warning them some international markets will be more sensitive to the quake than others.

There are lighter moments - laughter and a few claps when he tells them Donald Trump has passed on his best wishes and more laughter when Key proposes "chucking Richie McCaw in a boat" off the coast for a promotional video.

But the worry is far greater. Glen Orsmby says Key's visit was reassuring.

"But summer's coming up. It should be our busiest period and what do we do?"

Outside farmer Simon Mackle and Fonterra's area manager Mike Hennessy talk to Key about the difficulties getting milk and cows out, and water and fuel in.

There has been some good news for farmers in the rise in milk prices at the auction overnight. They celebrate briefly - Hennessy had not heard the news - but Kaikoura farmers' cows can not be milked and if they are, there is no way to get the milk out.

The meeting over, Key heads up to the local marae where tourists are waiting to leave.

Here Key starts the "messaging" the business people asked for.

Some tourists have vented anger at their plight and hit out at the pace of the evacuation and organisation.

But the tourists Key meets put a brighter face on it.

They are from Australia, Switzerland, Oregon, England and Rangiora.

Only the one from quake-prone San Francisco says she had not been terrified: "we don't panic."

UK tourists Hugh Jervis, left and Les Bruce prepare their luggage with high hopes of leaving Kaikoura today. (Wednesday). Photo / Mike Scott
UK tourists Hugh Jervis, left and Les Bruce prepare their luggage with high hopes of leaving Kaikoura today. (Wednesday). Photo / Mike Scott
Doug Winter from the Red Cross disaster response team gets a grateful hug from Amy Cook from the UK after she finds out she is getting flown from Kaikoura. Photo / Mike Scott
Doug Winter from the Red Cross disaster response team gets a grateful hug from Amy Cook from the UK after she finds out she is getting flown from Kaikoura. Photo / Mike Scott
Damage in the Clarence Valley near Hanmer Springs. Photo / Tara Manson
Damage in the Clarence Valley near Hanmer Springs. Photo / Tara Manson

Honeymooners Kurt and Kailah Sapwell are on their way back to Perth after returning to New Zealand to get married. Being marooned in a quake zone is not exactly a luxury honeymoon, but they do not seem disturbed. "We had a place to stay and food and water, so all good."

One woman tells him her parents want her to return home. A Scottish tourist tells Key New Zealand is "like Scotland on steroids." He is looking forward to a shower, but admits his holiday is "one to remember."

British women, Marion Middleton, Sue Gildersleve and Gill Goodrich, tell Key they don't have earthquakes in the UK.

"We say we've taken on New Zealand's ultimate experience. We'll be able to dine out on this." They even thank him. They are full of praise for the locals' efforts and civil defence - and a little shamefaced by the complaining from some of their fellow countryfolk.

They intend to donate to Red Cross once they've returned to England. "They've been so wonderful. So can we say thank you to the New Zealand people. It was frightening, but the ultimate experience and we lived through it."

Jonathan Deturk and Emma Lindberg from Oregon, USA are hoping to get to a friend at Christchurch.

"Oh," Key says and laughs. "You'll be swapping earthquake stories."

The Elms homestead near Kaikoura was destroyed in a 7.8-magnitude quake. Louis Edgar was killed when the historic home collapsed. Photo / Mike Scott
The Elms homestead near Kaikoura was destroyed in a 7.8-magnitude quake. Louis Edgar was killed when the historic home collapsed. Photo / Mike Scott

Then he remembers his messaging: "We're not quite as earthquake prone as it sounds. We're just having a very bad run at the moment. Thanks for coming to New Zealand!"

To each, he winds up with a cheery "don't worry, we'll get you out."

By tonight, all are expected to have been evacuated by the HMNZS Canterbury.

Then Key will have to make his promises a reality for those left behind.