Watch: Barack Obama touches down in Auckland in private jet as former US President's first visit to New Zealand kicks off

Source: 1News

Barack Obama is expected to fly by helicopter north from Auckland today to play golf with Sir John Key and other guests after touching down in Auckland last night in a private jet.

The former US president is in New Zealand for a whistle stop speaking visit, although much of his time here remains shrouded in secrecy.

But yesterday former prime minister Sir John Key, former president's golfing buddy, opened up about the games they'll play.

"He's competitive and he's an absolute stickler for the rules, unlike a few former presidents who are sort of known for using the foot wedge so to speak," Sir John said. 

1 NEWS understands Obama will play golf at the Kauri Cliffs in Northland.

"He has a hundred million people that follow him on Twitter and Facebook and the likes. You put up one picture of a New Zealand golf course and him having a bit of fun, that's got to have a fantastic value for us," Sir John said.

At around $550,000 for a public speaking engagement, Mr Obama now earns in a night what he was paid annually as US president.

New Zealand-United States Council chairman Leon Grice says the visit is "a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the New Zealand- United States relationship".

As president, Barack Obama's every word and move was chronicled. But the movements of private citizen Obama are carefully guarded. Auckland Airport would not tell 1 NEWS when he was arriving and police said his security arrangements are confidential.

On Thursday, Mr Obama will be in front of the cameras - a powhiri will be held at Government House in Auckland and he'll hold a meeting there with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

But the cameras are banished for the invite-only event on Auckland's waterfront for business and community leaders, moderated by actor Sam Neil.  

Sir John Key said: "The New Zealanders who get an opportunity to meet Barack Obama "will come away feeling they've met a real world leader, a statesman, a great guy."

Mr Grice said what President Obama stood for and continues to stand for "is how do we make our leadership more diverse and more inclusive".

On Friday, the Obama magic heads to Australia.