Former US President Barack Obama looked tired, brought nothing to the table and his evening with an exclusive New Zealand audience was a "missed opportunity", says broadcaster Mike Hosking.

Obama spoke in a 75-minute Q&A session with actor Sam Neill in front of an invitation-only audience of 1000 people at Auckland's Viaduct Events Centre.

Hosking attended and told his Newstalk ZB radio audience this morning that it was a "four or five out of 10" at best.

Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States of America spoke of woman in leaders roles and life after the presidency at a dinner in Auckland on Thursday.
Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States of America spoke of woman in leaders roles and life after the presidency at a dinner in Auckland on Thursday.

"A lot of people will speak well of the night, will want to be polite. I see it as a missed opportunity.


"There is no question when [Obama] walks in the room there is magic, like Mandela, there is something there. When he comes in you are a ready for something brilliant.

"But he brought nothing to the table. He looked tired. At times, I swear to God, I wondered if he fell asleep."

Highlights were stories about saving the US car industry, and on leadership around the raid on the Pakistan compound in 2011, and the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

"What we didn't know, is that even with all that intel, the best in the world, when he pulled trigger... he assessed it was Bin Laden at 55/45," Hosking said.

"So what do you do as a leader in those circumstances?"

Saving Chrysler and General Motors was another example of leadership.

"It was just after the [Global Financial Crisis] and Chrysler and [General Motors] were falling over. Obama decided to save them, while most people in America thought he shouldn't, very free market oriented.

"Obama thought different. He lost badly politically, but in hindsight we can see he did the right thing. It is a classic example of strong, bold leadership. "


However apart from that, Hosking said the night was "low-energy".

"Sam Neill with his low-key approach and Obama and his low-key approach gave a low-key performance.

"[Neill] needed to say something provocative. Sadly, [Obama] answered the most bland of questions.

"Last night was so bland, so general, so open to the possibility of brilliance yet lacking the delivery of brilliance one could only feel disappointed.

"There was not a single story told last night. At not one point did Obama go, 'Actually that reminds me of the time I went to China'.

"How many people has he met, places been, seen and experienced, and he could have told them a way only Obama could. Obama is one of the greatest orators of our generation - how alive could he have been.

"I would have got in his face and said, 'Welcome to a country, where a kid...has never been shot in a school. How is it you can stand at Sandy Hook, with tears running down your face, and not change the gun laws in your country?'"

"That would have brought Obama to life. That is what we needed: more stories, more people, more background, more secrets.

"You cannot tell me he has been around eight years and does not have magic to spill.

"Ultimately, at end of the night, what a shame."

The best part, was the food.

"The food was magnificent," Hosking said.

Air NZ flew New Zealand-born chef Peter Gordon from London to oversee the dinner.

"Peter Gordon was the highlight of the night, flying the flag so fantastically, successfully internationally. Feeding 1000 is nigh on impossible and he did it brilliantly."

Earlier yesterday, Obama met Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after being welcomed at Government House with a stirring pōwhiri.

Obama's first words to Ardern were about her pregnancy - as they walked off for a meeting together, the former president was heard saying, "So, I hear you are expecting".

Obama arrived back in Auckland after two days golfing in Northland with former PM Sir John Key.

He arrived at Government House around 3.50pm - potentially was the only chance for members of the public to catch a glimpse of the former president.

The pōwhiri was led by iwi Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei.