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The Department of Internal Affairs

The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


Services › Other Services › Visits and Ceremonial Events

About this information
Roles and responsibilities
Guest of Government visits

Ceremonies and Commemorations Flag protocols

About this information

These notes provide information on (1) the Visits and Ceremonial Office’s (VCO) responsibilities and procedures, and (2) practical guidance on the provisions and support for official visits to New Zealand accorded Guest of Government status.

The information is for members of the New Zealand public, and for diplomatic missions and New Zealand officials involved in official visits.

Further advice can be obtained from Visits and Ceremonial Office:
Phone: (+64 4) 817 8910
Fax: (+64 4) 817 8909

Roles and responsibilities

The Visits and Ceremonial Office (VCO) is responsible for the planning, administration and coordination of arrangements for visitors to New Zealand who have been accorded Guest of Government status by the Prime Minister. The overriding objective is to help to promote New Zealand’s international interests through the efficient and effective delivery of visits. VCO works closely with other government agencies – particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) – on these visits.

With the Parliamentary Relations team (PR), VCO is also responsible for organising Guest of Parliament visits. The main aim of these visits is to foster strong, positive relationships between the New Zealand and other parliaments.

VCO has primary responsibility for organising national ceremonial and commemorative events. Examples include ceremonial welcomes at Parliament and Government House, state funerals and the Anzac Day commemoration at the National War Memorial.

VCO also provides international airport arrival and departure facilitation for Guest of Government visitors, and New Zealand dignitaries such as the Governor-General and Prime Minister.

VCO forms part of the Ministerial and Secretariat Services group of the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA). It comprises the Manager and ten staff, of whom two are based at Auckland International Airport.

Guest of Government visits

Official guests visiting New Zealand may be granted full Guest of Government (GoG) or partial Guest of Government (PGoG) status.

The approval of the Prime Minister is required in granting Guest of Government status.

Full Guests of Government

The New Zealand Government meets the following costs within New Zealand for full Guest of Government visitors:
  • Hotel accommodation
  • Reasonable living expenses including meals and laundry
  • Internal travel – air and ground transport
  • Government hospitality
The New Zealand Government does not meet the costs of:
  • International airfares
  • Telephone/internet/facsimile charges
  • Gratuities
  • Office facilities
  • Medical expenses
  • Personal entertainment
  • Excess baggage costs
Delegation size

Guest of Government status allows for:
  • Heads of State 1 + 8 + spouse/partner
  • Heads of Government 1 + 2 + spouse/partner
  • Ministerial level 1 + 1
All other members of delegations are the financial responsibility of the visitor’s country. VCO will assist with coordination of accommodation reservations and ground transport.

Length of stay

Official visits are for periods of up to five days.

Partial Guests of Government

The New Zealand Government meets the following within New Zealand for partial Guest of Government visitors:
  • Use of one vehicle for airport transfers on arrival and departure
  • Use of one crown car for official calls
  • Government hospitality (one event only) where hosted by a Minister
Partial Guest of Government visitors are provided with airport facilitation for arrivals and departures. They are not accompanied by VCO.

The New Zealand Government does not meet the costs of:
  • International airfares
  • Hotel accommodation
  • Daily living expenses such as meals and laundry
  • Personal entertainment
  • Internal travel by air, or by road other than for airport transfers and official calls
  • Telephone/internet/facsimile charges

Advance visits

Guest of Government visits are often preceded by reconnaissance or advance visits. These visits are managed by VCO. In order to be productive, they should take place at least a week prior to the actual visit.

Business and trade delegation

Guest of Government visits sometimes include business delegations. They do not qualify for Guest of Government status.

Guests of Parliament visits

There are two broad categories of Guest of Parliament visits – Parliamentary/Speaker Visits, and Political Exchanges. Participants normally qualify for Guest of Government status.

Parliamentary/Speaker Visits

The main aim of Guest of Parliament visits is to foster strong, positive relationships between the New Zealand and other parliaments, and to provide opportunities for exchanges of information, knowledge and policy discussions between New Zealand Members of Parliament and their overseas counterparts. Visits also fulfil New Zealand’s obligations as a member of international parliamentary organisations, and contribute to New Zealand’s foreign policy goals and objectives.

VCO and the Parliamentary Relations team (PR – facilitates engagement with the international parliamentary community) work closely in managing these visits.

Standard practice is to cover Guest of Government expenses for the Speaker, his/her spouse/partner, four MPs and one official (as specified in the Speaker’s invitation), for up to five days.

Political exchanges

The American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL) and the Office of the Speaker have agreed to undertake an educational exchange between the United States and New Zealand. The exchange operates on a year-about reciprocal basis. Delegations comprise emerging political and policy leaders.

The Australian/New Zealand Political Exchange Programme exposes future political leaders of each country to the political, social, economic and cultural systems of each country. The key aims are to aid personal development and to promote friendship and cooperation between Australia and New Zealand.

Other visits

VCO also manages Prime Minister’s Fellowships and the Otaki Scholarship, recipients of which receive Guest of Government status.

The Otaki Scholar is the winner of the Otaki Shield. The Shield is awarded to a top pupil from Robert Gordon’s College in Scotland to commemorate a World War 1 incident during which the New Zealand Shipping Company’s ‘Otaki’ came close to sinking a heavily-armed German raider.

Guest of Government: planning and arrangements

Official programme

VCO provides an official programme in the form of a booklet, printed in English. The booklet sets out the itinerary, procedures, accommodation, transport, hospitality and media details. A copy is provided to each member of the visiting delegation. The visit proceeds on the basis of this programme.

Pre-visit delegation details

It is important that early advice be given to VCO to confirm:
  • Details of the delegation, including correct spelling of names and styles/titles for all visitors
  • Full passport details
  • Whether a representative from the principal’s diplomatic mission is to accompany the delegation
  • Whether the delegation will include security officers
  • Whether the principal will be accompanied by, or will require, an interpreter
  • Any professional/personal interests of the principal visitor, and spouse, including religious observances
  • Details of dietary preferences, and relevant medical conditions, including blood types


Accommodation of international standard is provided for Guest of Government visitors.


For Guest of Government visits, VCO coordinates motorcade arrangements, where required, in conjunction with VIP Transport Services, the Police and airport authorities.


New Zealand does not have set traditions for gift giving. Practice varies depending on the country involved. The procedure for gift giving also varies. It is decided between officials on a case by case basis, depending upon Heads of State/Government preferences.

It is helpful for both sides to have notice of gift exchanges.


An official luncheon or dinner hosted by the Prime Minister is normally extended to visiting Heads of State and Government. For Heads of State, Government House arranges a state luncheon or dinner.

Protective security

New Zealand authorities provide comprehensive security arrangements for Guests of Government visitors against whom an assessed security threat exists. This includes the use of close protection officers from the New Zealand Police, and the provision of appropriate transport, accommodation and venue security arrangements. If the visitor wishes to stay at a diplomatic or private residence, the additional costs of guarding the mission/residence is at the expense of the diplomatic mission.

Carriage of weapons

New Zealand’s Arms Act 1983 prohibits the carriage of weapons for protection in New Zealand by anyone except New Zealand police officers. This means that any firearm or weapon must be declared and surrendered to New Zealand Police on arrival in New Zealand, or secured on the visitor’s aircraft.

Arrival protocols

Airport facilitation is a standard part of the arrangements made for Guest of Government visits.

The following requirements must be observed to ensure smooth facilitation and a straightforward clearance on arrival:
  • All members of the visiting party, including the principal Guest of Government, must complete an Arrival Card. Failure to complete this document will result in delays in facilitation.
  • All food items must be declared. There is an instant $NZ400 fine for not declaring foodstuffs. (Visitors should receive prior notification of this.)
  • Gifts of an ‘agricultural’ nature – made of wood and plant material, for example – should also be declared.
  • A list of media equipment being brought into the country is also required.
  • All delegation members’ hand and hold luggage will be screened on arrival. A member of the incoming party should be present in case inspection of any items is required.


For the departure of a Guest of Government party, if practicable, baggage is sent out in advance and check-in completed before the party arrives at the airport.

Only Heads of State and Government are not required to undergo personal security checks on departure on commercial flights from international airports in New Zealand. All other members of the party must go through aviation security controls before boarding.

Charter/private aircraft

Guest of Government delegations often arrive and depart New Zealand by charter or private non-commercial aircraft. Special facilitation arrangements are put in place on these occasions.

Disinsection of non-commercial aircraft

All international non-commercial aircraft entering New Zealand are disinsected (sprayed) in strict accordance with the recommendation of the World Health Organisation.

Once the Ministry of Primary Industries is satisfied disinsection has been completed, passengers may disembark.

Ceremonies and Commemorations


VCO has primary responsibility for the coordination of ceremonial welcomes, working closely with Government House, the New Zealand Defence Force and Parliamentary Services.

Heads of State and Government are accorded an official Ceremony of Welcome for their first visits only.

For Heads of State, the Welcome takes place at Government House Wellington or Auckland. The Governor-General is the host.

For Heads of Government, and in some cases where the person holds both offices, the Welcome takes place at the Parliament forecourt or at Government House Auckland. The Prime Minister is the host.

VCO also has overall responsibility for the organisation of the State Farewell of an outgoing Governor-General and the Swearing In of the new Governor-General.

Commemorations and National Events

VCO has primary responsibility for national and state wreath laying ceremonies, and national commemorative events.

This includes Anzac Day for which VCO arranges the National Commemorative Service at the National War Memorial, in conjunction with New Zealand Defence, the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association, and the Ministry of Culture and Heritage. VCO also arranges the Anzac Ceremony at the Ataturk Memorial.

VCO’s role also includes coordination and delivery of special national, civic or military anniversaries, and of the observance of Commonwealth Day.

Flag protocols

Where flags are required to be flown during a visit, for example, during a press conference or an official call by a Head of State or Head of Government, the protocol is to place the flag of the visiting country on the right shoulder of the New Zealand host (i.e. visitor on the left and New Zealand on the right when viewing the front of the stage).

During the event, the visiting guest of honour should be positioned in front of their country flag and the New Zealand host in front of the New Zealand flag.

Please read the flag protocol document for more information.

Cost of Royal Visits

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