10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
The Auckland-born player is returning home and will marry his fiancee Monique in December before beginning his Munster career in the New Year.
Greeted by Kidney and heavy rain on his arrival in Cork, Howlett said: "It reminds me of home in winter! I've always found Ireland a welcoming place, and that was a factor (in agreeing to join Munster).
"In terms of the club, I just liked the tradition and history there...liked what they had achieved in the game. I think Munster is probably going to be similar to Auckland in the way they approach the game, in that rich history, so I'm really looking forward to it.
"It all happened quickly in the end and for me it was a gut instinct that I should join Munster before anyone else," he told the Irish Examiner.
Kidney is delighted to be bringing a player of Howlett's experience and class on board, admitting: "It's great that we have an opportunity to show him around for a couple of days.
"It's a bonus for us that a player of his calibre decided to sign for Munster. I suppose it is a tribute to what we have achieved in many ways. I think we were also persistent in our bid to sign him, maybe that helped at the end of the day," he added.
"We were in contact with him for over a year, so he knew full well that we were very interested in bringing him here. The rugby world is a pretty small place, so it wasn't a question that he wouldn't have known about us, what we're about and what we have achieved."
Despite recent poor form in the Magners League, the Munster supremo remains confident of a good season for his side, adding: "we're lucky that we appear to be in good shape this year with plenty of competition for places."