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NZ PM Luxon unlikely for Pacific Islands Forum

Ben McKay -

New Zealand is likely to send a bipartisan duo to the Pacific Islands Forum, with incoming Prime Minister Chris Luxon all but ruling out attendance.

Mr Luxon's National party won the October 14 election but is yet to form a coalition government, as it waits for the final vote count.

Those results will become clear on Friday, when National will begin coalition negotiations with minor parties to build a government.

Mr Luxon on Thursday said in Auckland he didn't believe he would have enough time between the release of results to form a coalition in time to attend the Cook Islands-hosted summit next week.

"I would love to go ... but my priority is to form a government," he told journalists in Auckland.

"It's an important forum, there's a number of issues there. We have great relationships with partner countries in the Pacific islands that we need to continue to deepen and build our relationships with."

The result is an awkward one for New Zealand.

Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) heavyweights traditionally frown on attendance by non-leaders, and there is every chance it will be seen as a snub from Mr Luxon.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has confirmed he will attend PIF after his visit to China.

Mr Luxon's solution to the Kiwi squeeze is to send representatives from the outgoing Labour-led government and the incoming National-led government.

"We will send Gerry Brownlee who will be accompanied by Carmel Sepuloni," he said.

Mr Brownlee is the shadow foreign minister and a former holder of the role, while Ms Sepuloni is the current deputy prime minister and associate foreign minister.

It is unclear whether Mr Brownlee will travel in an official capacity as the next foreign minister.

Mr Luxon previously told AAP he wanted his first official trip as prime minister to be to Australia, while also confirming attendance to the PIF summit and APEC.

The former Air New Zealand chief executive said he believes he can get a government coalition done in time to attend APEC in San Francisco the following week.

Ben McKay - AAP


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