The odd reason Simon Bridges was surprised by Barack Obama

National leader Simon Bridges was surprised by former US President Barack Obama's physique when he saw him speak on Thursday evening.

"I think New Zealand politicians by and large, the men at least, are often short and probably a little bit overweight," Mr Bridges said after seeing Mr Obama speak at a private event in Auckland.

"But American Presidents like Barack Obama are tall and slender."

Mr Bridges said the former President had clearly enjoyed his time in New Zealand, and the event at the Auckland Viaduct Event Centre was a hit.

"What came through really clearly was his values but also his enjoyment while he's been here, seeing Kiwis, talking a bit about rugby, and so look it was a great night."

Former Waitakere Mayor Sir Bob Harvey said it was fascinating to hear Mr Obama discuss the lead-up to killing Osama bin Laden.

"Deep emotion. The call to order, the storming of that barricade, it must have been such a weight on him that he could have got it wrong.

"I think it was a moment in history to hear the former President say that. It was an extraordinary night."

Before the Thursday evening event, Mr Obama was officially welcomed to New Zealand with a pōwhiri by Ngati Whatua at Government House.

He then met with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the pair discussed leadership, progressive politics, youth, and parenting.

Mr Obama will meet with a group of young Māori women leaders from the Wahine Toa programme on Friday, and leave for Australia in the afternoon for a speaking engagement in Sydney.

Newshub.