Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick is among a select group of Kiwi mayors attending a 1000-guest banquet with former US President Barack Obama tonight.

It is understood mayors of Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Christchurch, and Nelson have also accepted invitations to the event at the Auckland Viaduct Event Centre alongside MPs and business leaders.

The 44th president of the United States of America arrived in Auckland early yesterday morning for his first visit in New Zealand.

Former President of The United States Barack Obama at Mechanics Bay yesterday. Photo/Brett Phibbs
Former President of The United States Barack Obama at Mechanics Bay yesterday. Photo/Brett Phibbs

After a golf outing with former New Zealand Prime Minister John Key in Northland yesterday, today Obama is meeting with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.


Tonight's banquet dinner is Obama's main speaking event in Auckland.

This morning Chadwick confirmed she was "definitely going".

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick. Photo/Supplied
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick. Photo/Supplied

She said she was "incredibly excited" and "delighted to be a guest", particularly because she spent six weeks on a study tour in the United States studying forestry, health, and film while she was an MP.

The mayor said she remembered vividly when Obama was elected.

"My father-in-law was staying with us. He was 99 years old and he watched the election right through.

"He was hugely emotional because he thought he would never live to see the day when an African American was elected."

Chadwick said Obama was inspirational for indigenous communities.

Tauranga mayor Greg Brownless said no to the invitation to dinner despite being "honoured to be invited" two-and-a-half weeks ago.


"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."

Tonight's dinner has been organised by the NZ-US Council and paid for by Air NZ, Mastercard, and Westpac.

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

An extensive media ban covers the event, and those attending have been told not to share the occasion on social media.

Although allowed to confirm they have been invited, guests have been advised to decline interviews.

Air NZ has flown New Zealand-born chef Peter Gordon from London to oversee the dinner, which will 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.

Two Maori women leaders from Rotorua are among a group also enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime meal with the former president.

Gina Rangi and Ana Morrison are members of Wahine Toa.

The informal group is made up of about 25 Maori women and was set up by Nancy Gilbert, the wife of the former US Ambassador Mark Gilbert.

The Gilberts are hosting the Wahine Toa and Obama for brunch tomorrow morning in Auckland.

"When they were in New Zealand Nancy interviewed a group of Maori women who were community leaders and through that process, we got together," Rangi said.

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