Leaders begin arriving at contentious Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru

Leaders have started arriving in Nauru for what's expected to be one of the most challenging Pacific Islands Forum's in its 49-year history.

Detention centres and challenges to democracy means there is an edge to this regional forum. Source: 1 NEWS

The annual meet for 18 Pacific leaders has kicked off to an uneasy start after current forum chair and Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi wrote to Nauru late last week threatening to pull the plug on the entire event over Nauru's refusal to grant the Chinese delegation the right to use diplomatic passports.

Nauru is one of just a handful of countries to recognise Taiwan and the incident appears to be a tit for tat - giving the Chinese the same treatment Nauruan officials would get if they went there.

However, the issue was resolved and the forum is now going ahead, but not without its issues.

Nauru has cited an accommodation shortage as the reason to limit numbers to this year's forum. The limiting visa situation is a problematic one for a country hosting a regional conference.

Nauru is home to an Australian detention centre with more than 900 refugees and asylum seekers on the island – about 100 of them children.

The increasingly authoritarian Government has targeted opposition MPs, the judiciary and freedom of speech.

Anna Powles from Massey University's Defence and Strategic Centre says the forum walks a delicate balance as Pacific island member states pursue their own foreign policies and national interests.

"I think it raises some very interesting challenges there given the situation with detention camps on Nauru and given the authoritarianism of the Nauru Government – as well it raises some real tension points for New Zealand leadership attending the Pacific Islands Forum," she said.

Most countries have only been able to send three journalists and the visa states the journalist can only report on the Pacific Islands forum and related events.

Australia's ABC was told not to bother applying for a visa as the Nauru administration felt its coverage was biased.

Other media groups were denied visas, as were some non-government organisations which have been outspoken about the refugees on Nauru.

New Zealand will spend $3 million on essential services for refugees in Manus Island and Nauru detention centres. Source: 1 NEWS

New Zealand has had its offer to rehome 150 refugees turned down, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is keen to meet some of them.

That's unlikely to happen. Her Foreign Minister Winston Peters takes a much harder line and says New Zealand should not interfere in Australian and Nauruan business.

"There are 50-60,000 in this country looking for homes and opportunity and our job is to make sure we fix our country up first than take on the whole world’s problems," he told 1 NEWS.

The forum leaders have some weighty issues to work through and despite their differences of opinion and policy they also have much in common.

A big security agreement, the Boe Declaration, is to be signed where forum countries are pledging to work together to counter growing threats to the region. They include climate change, transnational crime and cyber security.

Protecting the region is paramount and common goals will ensure the Forum members leave Nauru a lot stronger than when they came in.