Taxpayers forked out more than $30,000 on former US President Barack Obama's visit to New Zealand despite the lack of opportunities for the public to see him.

Obama's three-day visit in March cost the Government almost $32,000 in costs such as Crown cars and media staff according to documents released to Stuff by the Department of Internal Affairs.

His visit was accorded the status of a "guest of Government" by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, meaning some costs were funded by the DIA's budget for VIP visits.

Ahead of the visit, DIA estimated it would cost up to $50,000. The total bill was $31,960.30.


That included $21,500 on Crown cars, including eight drivers and two cars.

A powhiri at Government House cost $4,500 while the remaining sum was made up of salary and travel costs for two media co-ordinators staff and sundry expenses.

The powhiri at Government House was the only event open to media and there were no opportunities for the wider public to see Obama.

Obama's visit included two days playing golf with former PM Sir John Key in Northland, an invite-only dinner and speaking event, a powhiri and courtesy meeting with Ardern, and a meeting with a group of Maori women leaders.

NZ First MP Shane Jones on Barack Obama's visit and Air New Zealand. / Video by Dean Purcell

The sum does not include costs of police time on security. Obama had diplomatic protection squad security as well as regular police around his hotel and motorcade.

Obama's visit was arranged by the US-New Zealand Council and appearance fees and other costs covered by sponsors Westpac, Air New Zealand and Mastercard. The companies had treated Obama to nights at luxury golf courses up North, flown in chef Peter Gordon to prepare the dinner and offered fine New Zealand wines.

Ahead of the meeting, Key had said even one tweet from Obama about a New Zealand golf course would make the visit worth it in tourism exposure – but that tweet never came.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also visited New Zealand in May, but was not treated to the same level of help beyond some security detail. Her speaking event was open to anybody who bought a ticket as well as the media.