Acting Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee says he doesn't regret a heated exchange with a farmer in Kaikoura yesterday, saying he found the criticism of the earthquake response "extremely disrespectful".
"New Zealand is a democracy and we have direct access to politicians. I think that is an incredibly important thing," Brownlee said of the meeting with about 40 locals on the lawn of Kekerengu cafe The Store.
"So I am more than happy to stand there and take a blasting from someone, but they should never expect a one-way street if they are talking stuff that is just not right."
Brownlee was touring the area with Prime Minister Bill English when Clarence farmer John Murray told English "nothing has bloody well happened and it's shocking".
"Nothing has been done except patch up and I reckon it's piss poor and if that's what our Government feels about us and how they deal with emergencies then I'm afraid you have lost a lot of votes and a lot of confidence in this area," Murray said.
That drew a response from Brownlee, who said he deeply resented the comments and was "pissed off" that Murray had taken that attitude.
Today, Brownlee said he had a cup of tea and shook hands with Murray after the exchange, which was "just a moment in what was otherwise a pretty constructive meeting".
"I was fairly forthright. But I would also say that a lot of people at the meeting wanted to indicate that they didn't necessarily share all his views."
Brownlee said it would be unusual for people affected by the earthquake recovery not to be frustrated, and some had views about how things could be done faster.
"But from a Government perspective we've got to make sure that what is done is going to endure, and it can be done safely. And I think John standing up there and saying 'nothing is being done', I found extremely disrespectful.
"It is four weeks since the event, and the amount of work that has gone in to trying to create a good approach to recovery and meet people's needs as quickly as possible, has been quite extraordinary. I couldn't stand there and have him saying that NZTA and other agencies have done nothing. I couldn't do that."
Last month the NZ Association of Scientists said they were concerned that Brownlee had criticised GeoNet director Ken Gledhill, who had blogged about the need for an expanded earthquake monitoring system.
When Gledhill repeated the comments at a press conference, Brownlee said he felt blindsided by the scientist's comments.