Australian PM Scott Morrison hugs Jacinda Ardern, commends Christchurch terror response

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has praised New Zealand for responding to the Christchurch terror attack "with peace". 

The Australian leader met with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the Distinction Hotel in Christchurch on Friday after the National Remembrance Service held at Hagley Park to remember the 50 shooting victims. 

While Ardern may have expected a handshake from Morrison as is the usual custom for bilateral meetings, the Australian leader embraced her with a hug. 

Morrison, who has close ties to New Zealand, told Ardern how impressed he was with country's response to the March 15 attack, and "the way you responded to hate with love, and to violence with peace". 

"In Australia, while this didn't happen on our soil, we very much felt like it did, and that's how Australians have reacted from as far away as Perth to Cairns to Tasmania, and of course Sydney, where the Sydney harbour and the Opera House shone."

Morrison said the display of the silver fern on the Sydney Opera House on March 17 "expressed everything Australia wanted to say" to New Zealand. And of the Hagley Park memorial, he said it was "remarkable and beautiful". 

Australian PM Scott Morrison hugs Jacinda Ardern, commends Christchurch terror response
Photo credit: AP

Ardern thanked Morrison for taking the time to attend the Christchurch service. She told the Prime Minister: "The fact that you've taken the time to be here has been noted by everyone, so we truly appreciate it."

She said she was "grateful" for Australia's level of support, adding: "I think these are moments where a family really does want support and you've demonstrated in so many ways that Australia is family for us."

Ardern acknowledged Morrison for contacting her "almost immediately" after the attack to offer Australia's support, and thanked him on behalf of New Zealand for sharing in the country's "outpouring of grief". 

Morrison was in Auckland last month where he and Ardern held a press conference to discuss Australia and New Zealand's relationship, particularly around immigration issues.