At 2.11pm on December 9, when Whakaari/White Island spewed scalding steam, rocks and ash into the air, 47 people were on or near the island.

Police have so far confirmed 16 people have died, including 10 Australians.

Speaking in Auckland this afternoon Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne choked back tears as she spoke of the families of the victims of the eruption.

"I cannot begin, any of us can begin, to imagine what those families are facing in the coming days and months," she said.

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"They face tragedy and devastation and our hearts and thoughts are with them."

Jacinda Ardern greets Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne at Parliament this week. Photo / Getty
Jacinda Ardern greets Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne at Parliament this week. Photo / Getty

Of the 16 confirmed dead, 10 are Australian, as is one of the two people still missing.

Payne described the unity between New Zealand and Australia in the wake of the tragedy.

"I regard this is truly an A-NZ effort," she said.

But she would not be drawn on questions about whether the conditions leading up to the disaster needed to be probed.

"My absolute focus here is on the victims and their families. New Zealand will pursue its own inquiries," she said.

"If it becomes the subject of inquiry it would not be helpful for me to make gratuitous comments about that."

Australian officials who had been helping with the victim identification process had now returned home, while consular staff were still providing assistance, Payne said.

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Payne has been travelling New Zealand in the wake of the disaster and on Monday met Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after visiting Hutt Valley Hospital.

Payne would not say whether Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison would be making a personal visit to New Zealand.

"I know that they [Ardern and Morrison] spoke every day since last Monday," Payne said.

"We will stay very close to the New Zealand Government in terms of any commemorative events or ceremonies that will be held."