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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson press conference in Wellington

Posted by nzherald.co.nz on Monday, 5 June 2017

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has arrived in New Zealand for the first time.

Donald Trump's right-hand man touched down in Wellington this afternoon in torrential rain, before heading immediately to the Prime Minister's official residence for bilateral talks.

Tillerson, who is in the country for just two hours, was greeted by a powhiri at Premier House.

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Rex Tillerson faced a Maori challenge at Premier House. Photo / Isaac Davison
Rex Tillerson faced a Maori challenge at Premier House. Photo / Isaac Davison

Standing alongside Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee, he was given a hongi by two Maori leaders, before accepting a wero, or challenge.

About 200 protesters braved bad weather to gather at Parliament to "unwelcome" Tillerson.

Protesters outside Parliament as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives. Photo / Nicholas Jones
Protesters outside Parliament as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives. Photo / Nicholas Jones

Organisers were determined to send a message during Tillerson's visit, which comes shortly after Trump confirmed the US' withdrawa; from the Paris Climate Agreement.

The gathering followed the scaling of a nearby crane by Greenpeace protesters, who unfurled a banner reading "Climate Denial, Huge Mistake! RESIST".

The protest on Parliament's forecourt was organised by the climate change group 350 Aotearoa.

Many protesters held signs with messages including "Climate deniers are liars", "Heads out of the sand", "T-rex go home" and "There is no Planet B".

Police were in attendance, including one officer with a long-lens camera who took photos of protesters.

Greenpeace activists unfurl their banner from a construction crane behind Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Greenpeace activists unfurl their banner from a construction crane behind Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Peace Action Wellington brought an orange-faced effigy of Trump, complete with a Make America Great Again hat, and encouraged people to throw condoms filled with water at it, most of which bounced off.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw told the crowd New Zealand needed to condemn the withdrawal in the strongest possible terms, given our closest neighbours are at "existential risk", and New Zealand was at risk of more natural disasters.

"I'm inspired by all of you...coming out here in the cold and the wet to condemn the American actions on the day that T-rex, the dinosaur, is visiting New Zealand."

Labour and Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson received a loud cheer when he said the US decision was "immoral and a crime against future generations".

"We have a Government that is not taking climate change seriously, that put up a pathetic offer at the Paris Agreement. The one good thing we can take out of today...it is a chance for New Zealand to say, once and for all, 'we will have a low carbon future, we will do what it takes.'"

Greenpeace campaigner Kate Simcock said other world leaders had strongly condemned Trump's decision to quit the Paris Agreement, but English had been "notably silent".

"If there was ever a time to show leadership, it's now. But instead, our Prime Minister is engaging with one of the world's biggest climate deniers," Simcock said.

"English needs to choose what side of history he's on when it comes to climate change - on the right side of history, or the Trump side of history."

The Greenpeace activists scaled a construction crane in the Bowen State building complex behind Parliament, which is being refurbished.

Rex Tillerson, U.S. Secretary of State, shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump. Photographer: Michael Reynolds/Pool via Bloomberg
Rex Tillerson, U.S. Secretary of State, shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump. Photographer: Michael Reynolds/Pool via Bloomberg

After Trump confirmed the US would quit the Paris Agreement, Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett swiftly said New Zealand remains committed to its Paris target.

The 195-nation agreement aims to avoid atmospheric warming of more than 2C by the end of the century by getting each country to pledge to reduce emissions.

Paris targets can be raised but not lowered.

The National-led Government has committed to cutting emissions by 11 per cent of 1990 levels by 2030. Labour and the Greens want the target to be lifted to 40 per cent.

Just 20 per cent of New Zealand's climate change target will be met by reducing domestic emissions. The other 80 per cent will be met by buying carbon credits from overseas.

It means New Zealand will be paying around $1.4 billion a year - three times the environment budget - for little tangible gain within New Zealand.