Obama visit to NZ confirmed

Former US President Barack Obama will visit New Zealand in March, it has been confirmed.

He will speak at an event hosted by the New Zealand-United States Council on March 22.

It is understood Obama’s visit is being co-sponsored by Air NZ, Westpac, and MasterCard.

Obama is expected to be in New Zealand from March 21 to 23 – and has slotted in a game of golf with his old golfing rival Sir John Key while he is in town.

Obama will also meet with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern while in New Zealand.

New Zealand-United States Council chairman Leon Grice said: “President Obama’s presidency had an extraordinary impact on the world and during his service, New Zealand’s deep friendship with the United States was strengthened politically, culturally, in trade and investment, innovation and security.”

Key and Obama played golf together in Hawaii in 2014 and it is understood a rematch is on the agenda for Obama’s New Zealand visit – likely in Key’s favourite spot of Queenstown.

Ardern today welcomed confirmation of the visit.

“I look forward to welcoming Mr Obama to our country and anticipate meeting him once his full programme is finalised,” said Jacinda Ardern.

Leon Grice said it was not expected that Obama would be bringing his wife, Michelle, or two daughters with him. He will be in New Zealand for less than three days.

Obama will be speaking in Auckland to an invitation-only event of about 1000 people, Grice said.

Grice said it was a private visit and Obama would be doing a number of things including connecting with young New Zealanders.

“He has put a lot of effort in his post presidency into developing young leaders but also connecting with New Zealanders over the three days he will be here.”

Grice, who returned to New Zealand last July as Consul-General in Los Angeles, said he started discussions about a visit in August last year.

It was an initiative of the NZ US Council but very early on, in order to afford it, Air New Zealand was approached, and then Mastercard and Westpac.

“It became a team effort very early on.”

Grice said that in recent weeks, as negotiations came to a conclusion, the council had kept the Government informed about the likelihood of the visit.

He said the visit is not a commercial one and the guests to the speech would not be paying guests.