Leaders from the Five Eyes intelligence network to meet in Queenstown
Leaders from the Five Eyes intelligence network will be meeting in New Zealand this weekend.
Officials from the world's largest spy network - made up of the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand - will meet in Arrowtown, near Queenstown, where a massive security operation is underway.
Government officials are refusing to confirm details or provide names, but police confirmed no former head of state would be visiting, after the rumour mill tipped the visitor could be Barack Obama, with Microsoft founder Bill Gates' name also put into the mix.
The Prime Minister's office said more than one VIP is coming to New Zealand. Responding to reports of a "very important person" visiting Queenstown this weekend, a spokesman for Bill English said several "senior officials from overseas" would attend a Government-hosted conference.
"Due to specific security requirements we cannot comment further at this time. However, as police have pointed out they are not aware of a visit to Queenstown by a current or former head of state," he said.
Australia's Director-General of Security Duncan Lewis, United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey and Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Pompeo are among those thought likely to attend.
Security had been beefed up, and would include members of the police special tactics group and more than a dozen staff from Christchurch, the Otago Daily Times reported.
The area has been the venue for such top-level meetings before. In November 2014 the military heads of the Five Eyes intelligence network met in Queenstown, with the presence of a US Air Force plane at the airport a tell-tale sign.
NZ Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Tim Keating even tweeted a cosy pic of his counterparts enjoying a cup of tea during the meeting.
SPECULATION HAD BEEN RIFE
Queenstown Lakes District Councillor Scott Stevens said speculation initially from residents of Millbrook and Arrowtown Business Group members was Obama was coming.
That then changed and people speculated the arrival of Bill Gates, who is the world's richest man.
"Bill Gates has been here on a number of occasions. He loves Arrowtown," Stevens said. "He does attract a large security detail."
Stevens said there was a security "recce" late last year.
The Hills director of golf Craig Palmer said someone was coming, but he knew nothing of their plans.
"We do know he likes his golf though," Palmer said.
Millbrook Resort marketing manager Ciara Craig had "no idea". Former US president Bill Clinton stayed there in 1999.
A spokeswoman from exclusive Arrowtown restaurant Saffron said "no comment" when asked about a VIP for dinner this weekend.
Queenstown Airport communications manager Jen Andrews said "in this instance unfortunately I'm not able to help".
Police were tight-lipped. When quizzed about security for the person, Senior Sergeant Paula Enoka said police did not comment on operational matters.
A spokeswoman said police were not aware of a visit to Queenstown by a former or current head of state. "In general New Zealand police does not discuss security matters."
A prominent Queenstown source told Stuff on Wednesday morning reports of a former head of state jetting into the resort were false. "It is not a former head of state or ex-world leader," the source said.