New Zealand officials have apologised to Prime Minister Julia Gillard after a driver refused to let her on to a bus with other leaders during the Pacific Islands forum in Auckland last week, telling her instead to get on the spouses' bus.

Gender bender: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her partner
Tim Mathieson share a laugh with New Zealand PM John Key and wife
Bronagh Key about the goof up.
File Pic/Getty Images

A spokesman for NZ Internal Affairs confirmed the incident and said the apology was offered as soon as officials were made aware of it.

The driver concerned had not been used again during the forum. He was employed by a company that ferried the leaders around Auckland under contract to the Department of Internal Affairs. The incident happened when foreign leaders and their partners were being driven from Sky City Grand Hotel to the waterfront in two buses last Thursday.

Spouses travelled in a separate bus for security reasons. A spokesman for Internal Affairs said the bus driver was immediately informed of his mistake and Gillard got on the leaders' bus as planned.

She did not appear to take offence, however, an apology was offered and the department regretted that the incident occurred.

But it was not the only mix up during the forum. At the opening ceremony, the MC told leaders' spouses to "come up and meet your husbands". Gillard was heard joking with her partner Tim Mathieson about the slight and put her arm around him as they left.