A former diplomat in the Pacific says it's critical New Zealand's Prime Minister attend next year's Pacific Islands Forum if John Key is to skip this year's meeting.
Mr Key has signalled he will not be attending the forum leaders' summit in Palau in July, saying it is too close to New Zealand's general election in September.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully will attend in his place and will also represent New Zealand at the Small Island Developing States Conference in Samoa in September.
Michael Powles, who is a senior fellow at Victoria University's centre for strategic studies, says failing to attend one Forum meeting can be excused.
"Because there is no record of New Zealand ignoring the Forum or taking it lightly, I don't think it will go down that badly. If he were again Prime Minister in 2015 and didn't go then, then I think there could be grounds for quite serious criticism."
Michael Powles of Victoria University's centre for strategic studies.