22 Mar 2018

Obama-generated publicity for NZ: 'A real coup'

3:01 pm on 22 March 2018

Former United States president Barack Obama's visit to Northland has given the region publicity that money just can't buy, a tourism leader says.

Former US President Barack Obama tees off in Northland.

Former US President Barack Obama tees off in Northland. Photo: Twitter: @AirNZ

Mr Obama teed off this morning at the exclusive Tara Iti golf course, south of Whangarei.

He spent the night in luxury at the exclusive property, The Landing, in the Bay of Islands.

Paul Davis, promotions manager for economic development agency Northland Inc, said the former president had given the region invaluable global exposure.

"Barack Obama's one of the most followed people in the entire world from a social media perspective. So this is going to give Northland great coverage just by him being here.

"Those spectacular shots in the Bay of Islands on a beautiful sunny day are going to do great things for Northland all around the world."

Some of the security at Tara iti golf course.

The golf course, Tara Iti, near Mangawhai is being guarded by police and workers from the club. Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

One man, who was on watch at the main entrance, said members of the public and media had been trying to sneak a peek of the former president throughout the day.

An on-duty police officer said it was unclear how long they would be there to guard.

The course is surrounded by dense pine forest and backs on to Te Arai beach.

Security for Obama near Tara Iti golf course.

Security for Obama near Tara Iti golf course. Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

'A real coup'

Meanwhile, National Party leader Simon Bridges had an unscheduled phone call with Mr Obama this morning, which he described as "brief and warm".

Mr Bridges was in the Koru Club waiting for a flight to Auckland when Mr Obama called from the phone of former Prime Minister John Key.

"John had told the president a bit about me so that was nice to have, and then just a brief conversation about his time here, he's really having a good time here."

There was a bit of "friendly sledging" about Sir John's golfing habits, he said.

"I think the words 'terrible cheat' may have been used."

It was good to touch base with such a significant global personality, said Mr Bridges, as "relationships really matter".

"Having Barack Obama in New Zealand is a real coup actually, I've heard a bit of the critiquing around some of the issues given this is a private visit.

"But the other side of it is his global renown means that when he is on social media, when there are pictures of him playing golf on a pristine New Zealand golf course with incredibly beautiful scenery, that sort of publicity is just priceless."

This afternoon, Mr Obama will be welcomed with a powhiri at Government House in Auckland, before meeting Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

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