PM gets grilling on Stewart Is

Sanfords southern aquaculture manager Tommy Foggo (left) and Prime Minister John Key sample...
Sanfords southern aquaculture manager Tommy Foggo (left) and Prime Minister John Key sample oysters at Sanford’s oyster farm off Stewart Island. Photo: Allison Beckham

During a relaxed visit to Stewart Island yesterday, the most political heat Prime Minister John Key encountered was from pupils at the primary school.

Why did the Government spend money on a flag referendum rather than on health and medicines?

If he could get the referendum money back what would he spend it on?

Would the Government consider subsidising boarding fees for children like those from the island who have no option but to go to boarding school when they reach secondary school age?

Why was the Government allowing shark-cage dive-operators to feed sharks in the waters off the island when the sharks were dangerous for children who liked to swim and kayak?

Mr Key did his best to answer the questions except one.

Why did the parents of children suspected of being dyslexic have to spend hundreds of dollars having their children tested to confirm whether or not they were dyslexic?

Mr Key admitted that question had him stumped.

"I didn't know parents had too pay for tests. I will go back and find out. You learn something new every day.''

Mr Key was candid when faced with personal questions.

He told them he liked to cook when he was at home in Auckland, and the family cat was called Moonbeam Smokey Fluffy Key - so named by his wife and two children.

Describing himself to the children as "the leader of the blue team in Parliament'', he told them about his job and, when asked, promised to donate some airpoints so they could get to Wellington next year to join children from other remote schools.

Earlier in the day Mr Key, accompanied by Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie, visited Sanford Aquaculture's salmon farm and Sanford-Tio's oyster farm off Stewart Island, and the Ulva Island bird sanctuary.

The fresh oysters at the oyster farm were obviously a hit.

While his entourage and a media contingent clambered back on board a charter vessel, Mr Key went back for just one more.

"I'm not leaving,'' he said, flashing a grin.

On Ulva Island, Department of Conservation staff demonstrated predator traps and led him along some of the bush tracks.

Mr Key, who is Minister Of Tourism, said he tried to visit all parts of the country and it was "about time'' for a visit to Stewart Island.

"The last time I was here I was 10, and I'm now 54, so it's been 44 years.''

He had never visited Ulva Island before, he said.

allison.beckham@odt.co.nz

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