Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says he would have preferred for the general United Nations body to make a decision on Palestine before any of its other agencies.
A large majority of delegates at a meeting of the UN's cultural and scientific agency UNESCO voted on Tuesday to give the Palestinians full membership.
The motion specifically used the name Palestine.
New Zealand was one of 52 countries which abstained, including Britain and other Western nations.
Mr McCully says a formal application was made by Palestinian authorities several weeks ago to become a full state in the United Nations.
He says he would have liked for a decision to have been made on that application before any other agencies became involved.