As soon as he stepped out of the chauffeur-driven BMW, he
was on the back foot.
Under-fire Prime Minister John Key was inevitably going to
face questions in Christchurch from media over whether he
knew documents were being released to Whaleoil blogger
But as he entered the recently-refurbished Barrington Mall,
it was a post-earthquake issue that first set him on shaky
A woman asked the Prime Minister why terminally-ill, elderly
and vulnerable people were still waiting for EQC claims to be
Mr Key asked for details, saying he would raise the matter
The woman, who declined to be named, told media afterwards:
"He had absolutely no answers."
Mr Key continued the mall tour, posing for selfies, accepting
a free muffin, speaking to wide-eyed children, and even
signing a copy of his unofficial biography.
But not everyone was happy.
Grumpy shoppers tried to negotiate their way past the mass of
journalists, photographers, cameramen, National Party
hopefuls, hangers-on, police officers, Diplomatic Protection
Squad heavies, and onlookers.
"Isn't it time we got a new prime minister?" one woman boldly
stepped up to ask the encumbent.
"I hope not," Mr Key replied.
On he went, visiting a supermarket, sushi counter, cafe,
butchers, stopping to shake hands and pose for photos.
Mr Key, in seemingly high spirits, passed his free muffin to
an aide, saying he would eat it later.
Outside and into a bracing south-westerly wind, his last stop
was a travel agency.
As he strode on, two female radio reporters were talking,
evidently blocking his way.
"I'll shove you out of the way ... you're just part of the
scummy media," said Mr Key in a joke that seemed to fall
He was then taken to a meeting at the Christchurch Yacht Club
with the Coastal Pathway group, where more disgruntled locals
"When are you going to fix our house?" a young boy aged 5 or
6 asked, before running back to his mother to tell her, "I
shouted at him."
The visit was followed by Key's daily media conference, at
which there was only one topic: was he briefed before the
release of SIS documents that blogger Slater used to
embarrass former Labour Leader Phil Goff?
"I can absolutely, categorically tell you that's not
correct..." he said, before being grilled for the next 28
There was time for just two other questions -- on a social
inequality study, and the economy.
Mr Key suggested one of those reporters be awarded a
chocolate fish, "for at least asking a reasonable question".
A spokeswoman for the prime minister later said his "scummy"
comment was a joke with a press gallery journalist whom he
deals with regularly.
- By Kurt Bayer of APNZ