Claire Trevett plots the topsy-turvy week of Prime Minister John Key — in which a quake sets the scene.

The Apec Summit appears to happen at a particularly turbulent time of year. Last year, the Paris attacks happened while Key was en route to the Philippines, Jonah Lomu died, Key was caught in his hotel lobby in his bathrobe by Australian media, and his ears burned when Malcolm Turnbull and US President Barack Obama spoke glowingly of him behind his back - prompting a rare show of bashfulness.

The week leading up to the Apec leaders' summit in Peru was equally turbulent.

SUNDAY, NOV 13

The world can still do little more than read the tea leaves on what Donald Trump will deliver, and Secretary of State John Kerry is in town. He meets Key at Premier House for a joint tea-leaf reading session from which they emerge saying the tea leaves were inconclusive. Key ends his day with a birthday dinner for wife Bronagh and the couple return to Premier House.

Advertisement

MONDAY

At 12.02am Premier House starts rocking as the 7.8 earthquake comes knocking.

Key has disaster mode down pat. He is on all the media - his first priority to try to soothe rattled locals before he moves on to assure them the Government has been here before, knows what to do and that it can afford to do it.

After the Cabinet meeting, Key is whisked down to Kaikoura to survey the damage.

Key takes Brownlee and Labour leader Andrew Little, who is in the unenviable position of being completely irrelevant for a few days at least.

The quake has sent Key's stocks sky high. It shunted Trump off the headlines (temporarily) and as the rest of the world undergoes dramatic change, it provided the chance for Key to remind people of the virtues of stability - and why Key has survived for three terms as Prime Minister.

It is a masterclass in leadership. But he misses his first phone call from US President-elect Donald Trump.

John Key is whisked to Kaikoura hours after the devastating earthquake.
John Key is whisked to Kaikoura hours after the devastating earthquake.

TUESDAY

Key is supposed to leave for Argentina but cancels the trip and is instead at Parliament hammering out the Government's response to help businesses and farmers in Kaikoura.

Acutely aware of the danger the quake might have on tourism, Key is also quick to make reassuring noises internationally.

WEDNESDAY

Key's day begins with the previously missed phone call with Donald Trump. He reports on the serious bits - the TPP - adding they also discussed golf (Trump is a Bob Charles fan).

Then he is back to Kaikoura on the NH-490 to meet business people. He looks absolutely exhausted and gives a blunt appraisal of the likelihood of re-opening State Highway One: slim.

When he lands, the exhaustion disappears. He gives anxious business people what he can, promising support to pay wages.

Little cannot afford to play politics at the moment and Key is well aware of that, but he is pushing things a bit by promising the business people there will be no resistance from Parliament if urgent legislation is required to bypass resource consent processes.

Prime Minister John Key talks with Leihhton Smith on Newstalk ZB on Thursday morning. Photo / Nick Reed
Prime Minister John Key talks with Leihhton Smith on Newstalk ZB on Thursday morning. Photo / Nick Reed

THURSDAY

Key pops into the Mt Roskill byelection, in which the accusations and counter accusations between the main candidates have turned it into something a very pale imitation of the US campaign. The earthquakes have rendered the antics even more banal and unedifying. Enough said.

John Key and his wife Bronagh, fourth from left, walk the guard of honor upon their arrival to Lima. Photo / AP
John Key and his wife Bronagh, fourth from left, walk the guard of honor upon their arrival to Lima. Photo / AP

FRIDAY

Key leaves for Apec aboard the RNZAF Boeing 757, accompanied by wife Bronagh. The last time Key was on the Boeing, a faulty switch ended up stranding him in Townsville for a day. With the TPP dangling by a thread and Trump waving his scissors at it, Key cannot afford to miss Apec.

SATURDAY

Landing at Apec after 18 hours travel, Key emerges to a throng of media. They all ignore him - they are there for Japan's PM Shinzo Abe who arrives hot on Key's tail. China's President Xi Jinping has taken out insurance to get a front page picture - the state-owned China Daily has produced a special Peru edition featuring Xi on the front page.

It is the first major international meeting since the US elections. All the major players are attending and all will be talking about one man who will not be there: US President-elect Donald Trump.

Drinkies with his old mate Malcolm Turnbull have been delayed, so after a media standup it's dinner and bed.

Justin Trudeau, John Key and Barack Obama share a joke at the APEC leaders summit in Peru. Photo / Twitter
Justin Trudeau, John Key and Barack Obama share a joke at the APEC leaders summit in Peru. Photo / Twitter

SUNDAY

It's a big day at Apec. Security is tight with 21 leaders in town - and Peru has come up with a unique solution.

Cardboard cutouts of staunch looking policemen with batons have popped up at various places around the venue and roads around it. That will fool them. They are replaced by real police the next day. Key's first call is Chilean President Michele Bachelet. He greets her by saying he passed through Chile (Easter Island) to get to Peru. "I waved at your picture."

Bachelet offers him a water.

Then the self-appointed Crusader to Save the TPP from Trump launches his game plan.

He makes a naked appeal to the absent Trump's vanity, joking about calling it the "Trump Pacific Partnership". He makes another, more serious, appeal to Trump's power complex, warning China and Russia are waiting to fill the gap Trump's recipe for Making America Great again will leave.

Sometimes accused of running his own government like a corporate CEO, Key's reasoning is that Trump will run America in the same way he ran his massive corporations: by deploying business sense.

By day's end he has at least one convert to his belief (or delusion) that Trump will do a U-Turn: his "bestie" Malcolm Turnbull.

In between, Key meets Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. He decides it is a good time to troll Zuckerberg about Facebook's reputation on paying tax internationally. He offers his own PR assistance to the multi-billionaire, telling him to sort out his image problem.

Justin Trudeau, left, John Key, center and Malcolm Turnbull leave after the group photo at the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, APEC, summit in Lima. Photo / AP
Justin Trudeau, left, John Key, center and Malcolm Turnbull leave after the group photo at the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, APEC, summit in Lima. Photo / AP

MONDAY

Speaking of image problems, as the world's media file in to take photos of the leaders at the start of their annual retreat, Key is digging at something in his teeth.

He later reveals it was a raspberry pip.

It's the last day and the strain is starting to show. In his morning standup he comes up with a new word - "problemsome". The problemsome thing in question is Russia.

Key has ticked off most of those he wanted to meet. He sat between US President Barack Obama and Japan's Shinzo Abe at the State Banquet. The only box left to tick is Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Key gets that at the leaders' retreat. Putin has proved resistant to Key's chummy methods, as Key himself openly admits. He prefers the more laid back PM Dmitry Medvedev.

Key leaves with a doggy bag containing the launch of negotiations to upgrade the China free-trade agreement and a new friend in the making to replace Obama.

As the leaders file in for the annual "family photo" that new buddy appears on the horizon in the form of Canada's Justin Trudeau. Trudeau promptly stands in front of Key and fools around pretending to try to block Key out of the shot. They laugh together and Obama looks over to see what he's missing. After the photo is taken, Key and Trudeau wander off into the sunset together with Key's old BFF, Malcolm Turnbull.

To use one of Key's favourite phrases: Okey Deau-Key.