Barack Obama has landed at Kauri Cliffs, near Matauri Bay in the Far North for a round of golf.

Obama landed in New Zealand early this morning and our own former Prime Minister, John Key, and his family flew north for a golfing rendezvous with the former president.

President Barack Obama boards a helicopter at Mechanics Bay bound for a game of golf with Sir John Key in Northland. Photo / Brett Phibbs
President Barack Obama boards a helicopter at Mechanics Bay bound for a game of golf with Sir John Key in Northland. Photo / Brett Phibbs

His helicopter landed about 9.45am, escorted by a Jet Ranger, after a flight over the Bay of Islands and scenic Pererua Peninsula.

Obama is on his first visit to New Zealand and organisers are pulling out all the stops - from actor Sam Neill as one of his hosts, to flying in chef Peter Gordon from London to cook for him.

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The Civil Aviation Authority has placed a 2km no-fly zone around the Kauri Cliffs Golf Course for the purposes of "police activity" but otherwise security is low key with a Kauri Cliffs employee keeping watch at the turnoff from Matauri Bay Rd to Tepene Tablelands Rd and another staffer at the gate to the golf resort.

No police or security guards are visible at the entrance or on the road.

At 7.45 this morning, John Key, wife Bronagh and son Max arrived at the Mechanics Bay heliport in central Auckland, with their golf clubs.

Barack Obama arrived a short time later, carrying a cup of coffee and waving to spectators.

The 44th president of the United States of America landed in a private Gulfstream jet to a heavy police presence at Auckland International Airport at 12.13am this morning after two days in Singapore.

Police officers were milling outside the Sofitel Hotel in Auckland's city centre about 7am today, where former US President Barack Obama was staying.

Three officers were stationed outside the hotel's front doors.

A strong police presence was visible outside an Auckland hotel this morning, where Barack Obama was said to be staying. Photo / Alice Peacock
A strong police presence was visible outside an Auckland hotel this morning, where Barack Obama was said to be staying. Photo / Alice Peacock

A worker at the hotel maintained to the Herald the heavy police presence was because a police conference was being held at the venue this week. All the officers were wearing stab-proof vests.

However, a motorcade, accompanied by police, departed the Sofitel shortly before 9am and Obama was spotted at Mechanics Bay shortly after.

A small crowd also gathered outside the hotel's carpark hoping for a glimpse of the former president - and were disappointed to have missed out.

"He might have seen us through the window," one woman said. "That will never happen again in my lifetime."

Obama is tipped to stay at The Landing luxury home in Northland tonight before returning to Auckland tomorrow for an official welcome at Government House.

There he will experience his first powhiri and hongi - it is understood officials have been asked to send detailed information about the process and meaning of the hongi for him.

He will also meet Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern before an invite-only dinner and speaking event with about 1000 people, organised by the NZ-US Council and paid for by Air NZ, Mastercard and Westpac.

Former President of The United States Barack Obama arrives at Auckland International Airport, around midnight. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Former President of The United States Barack Obama arrives at Auckland International Airport, around midnight. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Air NZ has flown New Zealand-born chef Peter Gordon from London to oversee that dinner, which will also include a range of fine New Zealand wines such as Te Mata Estate and Craggy Range.

Obama will be interviewed by actor Sam Neill and the MC for the evening will be poet laureate Selina Tusitala Marsh.

There are few opportunities for the public to see Obama - the only event media can film is the powhiri and hongi at Government House.

National Party leader Simon Bridges is to attend Obama's event on Thursday night, saying the novelty factor of meeting a US president was the drawcard.

"I'm not saying I'm a devotee but I've never met a US president and so I'm pretty excited. I'm looking forward to hopefully getting a chance to briefly meet him."

However, the invite list did raise some eyebrows - some backbenchers are on it but Trade Minister David Parker did not make the cut despite the trade and export focus of the NZ-US Council, which helped pay for Obama's visit.

Parker's lack of an invite was possibly an oversight or because of political sensitivities around the TPP, which Obama had championed and brought the US in to before Trump withdrew from it.

Those who turned down invites included Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who was to meet Obama earlier and Green Party co-leader James Shaw who had another appointment in his climate-change portfolio.

NZ First leader and Foreign Minister Winston Peters was also going to be a no-show – he was staying in Wellington at Parliament – but MP Shane Jones is attending. Speaker Trevor Mallard was also attending as were National MPs Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi and Alfred Ngaro.

It is understood about 35 MPs were invited by the NZ-US Council and its co-sponsors Air NZ, Mastercard and Westpac.

Those companies are footing Obama's appearance fee, which has not been divulged.

Of those 21 were from Government parties, Labour, NZ First and the Greens.

A Crown vehicle believed to be carrying Obama leaves the Auckland airport around 12.30am. Photo / Brett Phibbs
A Crown vehicle believed to be carrying Obama leaves the Auckland airport around 12.30am. Photo / Brett Phibbs

However, more National MPs were invited than Labour MPs – perhaps because of its larger caucus.

US Ambassador Scott Brown is also likely to be at the speaking event, although he was appointed by Obama's successor, Donald Trump.

A spokeswoman for the US Embassy said it was security policy not to comment in advance on the ambassador's plans. "What I can say is that it would be natural for the ambassador to be invited and attend this kind of event."

Former US Ambassador Mark Gilbert, a friend of the Obamas, has also travelled from the US for the golf games. Gilbert and wife Nancy helped organise the Obama Foundation event with Maori women leaders – Nancy Gilbert had set up the "wahine toa" programme to meet those leaders in her time in New Zealand.

Despite the secrecy surrounding the trip and lack of public opportunities, the Government is providing some support for the visit because of Obama's status.

About $50,000 is expected to be spent from a fund to host VIP visitors for things such as transport in the Crown limos, airport facilitation and some security.

Police are likely to be involved in security around the locations Obama will be at. A spokesman said they did not comment on individuals.

"New Zealand police has extensive experience of policing visits by a wide range of high-profile individuals, however we do not discuss specific security matters regarding those individuals."