Being New Zealand's leader has its perks _ like tuna fishing

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) " Being the leader of a small nation comes with its perks " like going tuna fishing.

In his farewell speech to lawmakers on Wednesday, former New Zealand Prime Minister John Key recounted the time he visited the Marshall Islands in 2013 for a meeting of Pacific leaders and managed to squeeze in some deep-sea fishing.

Key said then-U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron called him on a satellite phone to talk about Libya. But Cameron wondered what all the noise was in the background.

"Don't get alarmed," Key replied. "It's just that we're on a fishing boat about a mile out to sea in the Marshall Islands and I've landed a big tuna."

Key said there was a long silence before the British leader wistfully replied: "God, I wish I ran a small country."

Key was one of New Zealand's most popular leaders and was widely expected to contest his fourth general election this year before he unexpectedly resigned in December after eight years as prime minister. He said he wanted to leave while he was on top of his game and spend more time with his family.

In his valedictory speech, Key addressed a full public gallery that included his wife, Bronagh, and children, Stephie and Max. Among his achievements as leader, he listed good economic management, completing treaty settlements with indigenous Maori and the construction of bicycle paths throughout the country. He expressed regret at his failed attempt to change the nation's flag.

He also talked about the disasters that happened on his watch, including the 2011 Christchurch earthquake that killed 185 people. He said he felt the quake strongly in the capital, Wellington, and thought it must have been centered there, only to find out it had occurred far away.

"The Christchurch earthquakes really hit home to me," he said. "It was my home town and the death toll was so high."

A successful currency trader before turning to politics, Key credited a humble upbringing and his mother for instilling positive values in him.

Key was elected to Parliament in 2002 and enjoyed a quick rise, becoming leader of his center-right opposition National Party in 2006. He won his first general election and became prime minister in 2008. He won subsequent elections in 2011 and 2014 and retained unusually high popularity ratings.

Key's former deputy Bill English has served as prime minister since December.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 23 May 2017 19:14:16 Processing Time: 849ms