Nau Mai, Haere Mai President Obama

Ricardo Simich,
Spy News,
Publish Date
Saturday, 17 March 2018, 4:59PM
Barack Obama is heading to Auckland this week.
Barack Obama is heading to Auckland this week.

It’s an exciting time in Auckland this week, former US President Barack Obama jets into town for the 1000-strong invite-only dinner at the ANZ Viaduct Events Centre on Thursday evening.

The event is being hosted by the New Zealand United States Council (NZ US), and sponsored by Westpac, Mastercard and Air New Zealand.

For those keen to score a golden invitation, the man to know is former National Party Cabinet minister Simon Power, who is an executive board member of the NZ US Council and GM of Consumer Banking and Wealth at Westpac.

Spy hears that captains of industry, corporate high flyers and rich listers have received invites and a selection of political types will be in attendance too.

“As one of four parties to the event, we have secured a limited number of tickets which we have made available to some of our customers from different parts of the bank,” a Westpac spokesperson tells Spy.

PM Jacinda Ardern will meet Obama on Thursday but could not confirm her attendance at the dinner by Spy's deadline. Other movers and shakers who Spy hears may attend include former All Black captain Richie McCaw, scientist Michelle Dickinson and My Food Bag co-CEO Cecilia Robinson.

There is speculation that Air New Zealand may use the evening to announce the launch of a service to Chicago, where the former President served as Senator for Illinois, but Spy understands this is unlikely.

Obama is expected to be in New Zealand from late Tuesday to Friday and is said to be having a game of golf with friend and former Prime Minister Sir John Key. Sources tell Spy that the most likely course is Tara Iti, on the coast near Mangawhai, about 90 minutes north of Auckland. Sir John, now the chairman of ANZ Bank NZ, has been known to chopper up to the spot, recognised as New Zealand’s most expensive golf course.

With security tight, where will Obama stay? When President Bill Clinton visited for the Apec conference in 1999, he stayed at the Regent in Albert St and when he returned for a talk sponsored by BMW in 2002, at The Hilton on Princes Wharf.

These days the Presidential suites at the SKYCITY Grand and The Pullman tend to attract visiting A-list superstars.

Some are speculating that Obama will stay privately. The Key abode in Parnell may be ruled out as it has had its tennis court removed in preparation for a new build. Some speculation says that the famous Paritai Drive house built by Mark Hotchin and bought by businessman Deyi Shi for $39 million in 2013 could be requisitioned for a luxurious and secure stay for the former Potus.