Gatland told The Telegraph that he was one of the 26 New Zealanders in the running to be the next All Blacks head coach, vacated by Steve Hansen after the World Cup, but he's chosen to stick with his commitment to lead the Lions to South Africa in 2021 instead.
"They (NZR) appreciated it, they understood it," Gatland said. "I just think it would look poor me applying [for the All Blacks job]. It wouldn't sit well with me, having already made those commitments to the other two parties."
He said he also wanted to remain faithful to the Chiefs, who he signed with in June.
"The thing about the All Blacks is, going back to New Zealand, being involved in Super Rugby, seeing how the Lions go - in another couple of years with the Chiefs, if you're successful where you are, the opportunities come.
"I'm not saying 'how do I become the All Blacks coach?' That will happen if you do a good job and you're successful. That means that if I'm successful with the Chiefs, that opportunity might come along. Maybe it won't. It's not at the forefront of my thinking."
Gatland coached Wales for 12 years, leading them to four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and the number one spot in the world on the eve of last month's cup.
Wales best finish at the Rugby World Cup under Gatland was fourth which they achieved in 2011 and 2019.
He also led the British and Irish Lions to a series win over Australia in 2013 and draw with New Zealand in 2017.
With Gatland ruling himself out, the race to be Hansen's successor appears to still be a four-man race between All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster, Japan coach Jamie Joseph, Crusaders coach Scott Robertson and Glasgow Warriors coach Dave Rennie.
"The next six weeks will be interesting. I'll kind of sit back and enjoy the process," Gatland told The Telegraph.