North suits Obama to a tee
He was once the most powerful man in the world, and now former US President Barack Obama is spending some time in the Far North.
However, there’s little chance of many Far North folk getting to meet the great man.
The 44th president of the US landed in the country last on Tuesday and yesterday morning took off from Mission Bay, Auckland, by helicopter for a round of golf at Kauri Cliffs golf course and resort with former NZ Prime Minister John Key.
A high level of secrecy and security surrounds the visit, but it’s understood Mr Obama was to spend last night at the luxury resort The Landing in the Bay of Islands.
His visit has attracted media interest from around the world and his time in the Far North is expected to generate huge interest in the region, which may lead to more tourists and investment.
Kauri Cliffs is a top luxury lodge, with a golf course ranked among the world’s top 50 golf courses. The hotel itself was voted to be among the best in the world.
The property was opened in 2001 by New York-based financier and philanthropist Julian H Robertson.
The American businessman also owns a sister lodge The Farm at Cape Kidnappers and another luxury resort in Queenstown.
The Landing is a 404ha property made up of six private beaches, a vineyard and four private residences situated across the land.
Accommodation started at $3500 for one night in either The Boathouse or Vineyard Villa while visitors staying in the Cooper Residence would have to stump up a whopping $13,000 per night.
Guests are offered an array of activities such as fishing, diving and hiking, or for those environmentally inclined the venue’s website boasted “excellent birdwatching opportunities” including kiwi-spotting night walks.
Mr Key has a handicap of 8 and Mr Obama revealed in 2016 that he had a registered handicap of 13.
Hitting the green with Mr Obama was former US Ambassador Mark Gilbert, who had returned to New Zealand for the visit.
Mr Gilbert said the trip would emphasise the growing relationship between NZ and the US.
“We struck up a friendship when he was a newly elected junior senator from the state of Illinois,” Mr Gilbert said of Mr Obama.
He said Mr Obama “absolutely” still had a big influence on society, despite his removal from the political sphere.
“What he’s really focusing on right now is the Obama Foundation and how they can teach young aspiring leaders to be the next generation of leaders around the world.” Mr Obama may hit the fairways for another game today, before heading back to Auckland for a private meeting with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Next up was a 1000-guest invitation-only dinner at the ANZ Viaduct Events Centre this evening.
GOLFER-IN-CHIEF: Former US President Barack Obama gets into the swing of things on the fairway at Kauri Cliffs yesterday.