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With boisterous ceremony, Maori warriors and nose-rubbing, New Zealand welcomed Stephen Harper on Friday ahead of the first official visit by a Canadian Prime Minister in 19 years.

Powhiri: Deciding friend from foe

Mr. Harper and his wife, Laureen, were greeted by New Zealand Governor-General Jerry Mateparae at Government House in Auckland with a powhiri greeting ceremony.

A traditional challenge, called the wero or taki, is used to determine whether a visitor comes as friend or foe. Maori warriors laid down a dart, or rakau tapu, which Mr. Harper picked up as a gesture of goodwill.

Hongi: Getting up close and personal

Mr. Harper exchanges hongi with a Maori warrior at Government House on Friday. (Reuters)

The hongi, or pressing together of the nose and forehead, is a traditional Maori greeting. The Prime Minister rubbed noses with both a male and female elder.

The cenotaph: Honouring the dead

Later Friday, Mr. Harper travelled to the Auckland war memorial to lay a wreath. New Zealand and Canadian soldiers fought together in conflicts that include both World Wars, the Korean War, the Gulf War and the war in Afghanistan.

The snark: Enjoy your visit, hosers

International media covering Mr. Harper's visit, and a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier Friday, got some gentle ribbing in the New Zealand press."Haka and hongi, that's what the world media want when their leaders get welcomed to New Zealand," wrote.

An Auckland hotel gave media guests some joking tips on how to enjoy their local wine:

Ms. Harper’s Kiwi connection

Laureen Harper exchanges hongi with a Maori warrior at Government House on Friday. (The Canadian Press)

Mr. Harper’s trip to New Zealand is his first in any capacity, but Ms. Harper has a Kiwi connection.

Her first husband was New Zealander Neil Fenton, a tech company founder. Their marriage ended in 1988, five years before she married Mr. Harper.

Some New Zealanders have apparently not forgotten Laureen Harper. A customs official at the Auckland airport told a Canadian reporter entering the country that he once knew her, describing her as “a lovely person” and asking how she was doing. He couldn’t be identified because of his work as a customs service agent.