Foreign Minister Murray McCully met Phillipines President Duterte tonight at his hotel for an hour.

"He's a tough guy but he was warm, courteous and actually quite charming," McCully told the Herald afterwards.

"He's a very engaging character and it's not difficult to discuss sensitive issues with him. He is very happy to engage on those issues."

The controversial leader, noted for his crackdown on drugs and inflammatory comments about the United States, is staying in Auckland while transiting home.


McCully would not confirm whether they talked about the extra-judicial killings Duterte has encouraged although he said it was wide ranging discussion and included the South China Seas.

"We talked about everything," McCully said.

"I don't want to talk publicly about what was a private discussion but we discussed the full range of issues.

"He doesn't beat around the bush. He has got quite firm views and he expresses them, and very colourfully."

McCully said his meeting was a courtesy call because president was in the country on his return from Apec and it was "the appropriate thing to do to have someone from the Government call on him and welcome him and make sure that he is being looked after here."

Earlier, John Key said the Government would pick up some of the tab of Duterte's visit here.

The Prime Minister said he wasn't going to stop Duterte from stopping over, despite opposition to his human rights record.

Key said he talked with Duterte at APEC, and he's stopping in New Zealand to take a break on his way home.

Key said he made it pretty clear when he met the president earlier in the year, that New Zealand doesn't agree with some of the more controversial human rights abuses.

There are to be only informal talks between our Government and president while he's in the country.

Meanwhile, a human rights lawyer says the New Zealand Government should have stopped the controversial president from coming to our shores.

Michael Bott said the Government needs to grow a backbone towards Duterte, who has a very low regard for human rights.

He said: "It's bad enough that he's killing people without trial, what's worse is that when there's innocent people, including women and children caught in the crossfire and butchered in this way, he says it's nothing."