23 Mar 2018

Ardern on Obama: 'We talked about pressing issues'

6:33 am on 23 March 2018

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it was a privilege to officially welcome former US President Barack Obama to New Zealand.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with former US President Barack Obama.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with former US President Barack Obama. Photo: Supplied

The pair met for about an hour at Government House in Auckland, following a pōwhiri this afternoon to welcome Mr Obama.

Ms Ardern said their discussions were wide-ranging, but mainly focused on the future of progressive politics, and how to keep the younger generations engaged and involved.

"We talked about pressing issues like climate change and a little about our agenda here in New Zealand," she said.

The pair also discussed parenthood and Mr Obama shared some tips, Ms Ardern said.

"It was a conversation I feel extremely lucky to have had."

In terms of the parenting advice, Ms Ardern said the question she asked him was: "how do you deal with guilt?"

"Because I have no doubt I'm going to experience some of that in the future as i juggle the roles that I have," she said.

"I'm sure his insights would be the same as what any parent would have."

Ms Ardern also sought his advice on leadership, saying she wanted to get a sense of his approach to leadership.

The pair did talk about the state of political leadership internationally, but she said it was a general discussion about the future of politics, rather than domestic politics.

She and Mr Obama also talked about the impact of social media on politics, and the need to maintain face to face dialogue.

Ms Ardern said Mr Obama was particularly appreciative of the taonga he was gifted by Ngāti Whātua during the pōwhiri.

She said Mr Obama had felt a lot of warmth during his time in New Zealand.

Former US President Barack Obama during this afternoon's pōwhiri.

Former US President Barack Obama during this afternoon's pōwhiri. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei's pōwhiri, or traditional Māori welcome, began with the blowing of the conch and a karanga.

A warrior then performed a traditional wero and placed a taki or rakau on the ground in front of Mr Obama.

The former president was escorted through the pōwhiri by Piri Sciascia, the cultural advisor to the Governor-General.

Look back at our live feed from the powhiri here:

Ms Ardern and her partner, Clarke Gayford, were part of the group who welcomed Mr Obama to Government House.

She was wearing a traditional korowai and sat on the side of the tangata whenua during the mihimihi.

After the haka pōwhiri, those gathered in the tent sang a hymn or himene and said a karakia before the mihimihi started to welcome Mr Obama.

Taiaha Hawke from Ngāti Whātūa Ōrakei began the speeches.

Mr Obama was later presented with two whale tooth pendants from Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei member, Ngarimu Blair. One for himself and one for his wife, Michelle.

He appeared happy and relaxed and wore his gift over his suit.

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The former president was escorted through the pōwhiri by Piri Sciascia, the cultural advisor to the Governor-General. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Mr Obama also spoke at an invite-only event organised by the New Zealand United States Council.

About 800 people attended - including members of the business and Māori communities and young leaders.

Earlier in the day, Mr Obama teed off 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.

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