Clarke Gayford says Barack Obama has a "lovely soft nose" and he's yet to decide on whether to take up Melania Trump's invite to hang out in New York next week.

Speaking at a Q&A in Auckland on Thursday night, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's partner told former TV presenter Mary Lambie that his family had become the focus of intense media scrutiny lately.

Gayford spoke to 100 attendees at the Public Relations Institute-organised event. He rejected a rumour that he was paid $20,000 for the appearance, saying he'd received nothing more than a jar of chutney from Lambie, who is his neighbour.

Gayford rattled off a string of famous people he'd got to meet since Ardern became PM last October – the Queen, musicians Ed Sheeran and Paul McCartney and Obama to name a few.


Along with detailing what it's like being a stay-at-home dad to three-month-old daughter Neve, he also spoke about meeting former US President Barack Obama.

"He was really lovely. He was asking questions about Māori culture and about New Zealand. He was an inquisitive, curious human being," Stuff reported Gayford telling the event.

"We had to hongi him, and I was one of the first ones up and I was pretty nervous – and he'd only done one before either. Lovely soft nose!"

Gayford and Neve will accompany Ardern to New York on Saturday for the United Nations General Assembly. The Prime Minister's visit includes three major media appearances: the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the Today Show, and a longer interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

In New York, Gayford will mostly focus on looking after Neve, but he told Lambie that only that morning he'd received a very special invitation all of his own.

He read from his phone. "'Mrs Melania Trump requests the pleasure of your company for a reception on the occasion of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly'.

"She must be doing it for all the spouses."

"Tea and scones with Melania," said Lambie.


"Yeah," said Gayford. "Tea and scones with Melania. I don't know quite where it is. I'll see if we have time."

Gayford also described former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull as "actually, really quite personable".