Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless has said no to an invitation to dinner with former US President Barack Obama.

Brownless was among a selection of mayors invited to attend a 1000-guest banquet with Obama tomorrow.

He said he was "honoured to be invited" but had to turn down the invitation because of a prior commitment on Thursday night.

"I have a citizenship ceremony to attend for 60 people and their families and friends. If I had gone to the dinner I would have been letting 200 to 300 people down."


"And first thing the next morning I am opening a conference that means a lot to some people locally."

Tauranga mayor Greg Brownless. Photo / File
Tauranga mayor Greg Brownless. Photo / File

Brownless said he received the invitation two-and-a-half weeks ago and it was too short notice to reschedule the events.

The invitation did not say it was transferable so he was not sending anyone in his place.

"If it had been different timing I would have gone.

"It would have been an honour to have heard him speak. He is such a contrast to the incumbent."

Brownless said he did not think Tauranga people would be too concerned about him turning down the invitation.

"If it has caused huge offence we would welcome a visit. We would love to host Obama here in Tauranga."

It is understood mayors of Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Christchurch and Nelson accepted invitations to the banquet.


Obama arrived in New Zealand early this morning for his first visit to the country.

The 44th president of the United States of America landed in a private Gulfstream jet at Auckland International Airport at 12.13am today after two days in Singapore.

His itinerary includes golf with former New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, experiencing a powhiri and hongi, a meeting with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the banquet dinner.

National Party leader Simon Bridges will attend the dinner, 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," he said.

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 organised the dinner.

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 into before Trump withdrew from it.