Pacific leaders have wrapped up their retreat in Fiji, after thrashing out major issues affecting the region, from climate change to China, the US and security, and indigenous rights movements in West Papua and New Caledonia.
Leaders - including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern - will shortly issue a communique covering agreements on a range of issues, including the Blue Pacific 2050 strategy, which encompasses how to address many of the geopolitical challenges that have arisen recently.
Speaking to media after the leaders concluded their talks, Ardern said the meeting was an opportunity to go over the 2050 strategy, talk about climate change, and the Suva Agreement relating to the role of Secretary General, and there had been strong agreement on the three topics.
She said leaders had also discussed the desirability of countries consulting others over decisions that impacted on the security of the region and she had reiterated New Zealand's view that militarisation was a concern.
On the Solomons-Beijing agreement, Ardern said she could not reveal the detail of the conversations in the retreat, but "you can certainly assume that I will constantly speak on the priorities New Zealand has. We have a very strong view on militarisation of the region. That doesn't mean nations can't make their own choices around their own defence needs. But as we are going to try and model, we will talk to our Pacific neighbours. Because our defence strategy has an impact on others."
Asked whether other countries had held the same view, she said the language around regionalism and peace and stability in the Forum's communique reflected some of that.
Ardern said she was pleased to hear Fiji President Frank Bainimarama had spoken to Kiribati's President Taneti Maamau and it remained the hope that Kiribati would return to the Forum.
All other countries had now agreed to the Suva Agreement, under which the Secretary General role would go to a Micronesian candidate the next time round - that was the issue Kiribati had left the forum over.
Asked if it had been a significant week, Ardern said it was important to spend "quality time" together after the Covid-19 interruptions.
"We not only have common challenges, we have common values and common goals, and the chance to talk about those face to face, no intermediary, that's invaluable."
Ardern will return to New Zealand tomorrow after a string of overseas trips to the United States, Europe, Australia and Fiji.
She said she now had a gap before her next large overseas trip in September, and hoped she had achieved something for New Zealand over the last few weeks.
Focus on unity
A core focus of the Pacific Islands Forum leaders' retreat today was expected to be unity, after this week's annual meeting in Suva, Fiji, began with Kiribati breaking away from the 18-state collective.
The last time Forum leaders met face to face - in Tuvalu in 2019 - the meeting went eight hours overtime, largely due to disagreements over climate change between Pacific leaders and former Australia prime minister Scott Morrison, who refused to address his country's devotion to coal.
"There were serious arguments and even shouting, crying, people, leaders were shedding tears," then-Tuvalu prime minister Enele Sopoaga told Australia's ABC after the summit in 2019, his disdain clear for all to see with the communique "watered down" on global warming.
With a new Australian administration, Ardern on Wednesday said she did not envisage the same heated discussions, with "more common ground" this time.
But three years apart through the pandemic meant there was still much to work through and build on, she said.
Also at play will be the fact many of the key leaders have never attended a leaders' retreat before, which could influence the dynamic.
These include Australia's Anthony Albanese, New Caledonia's first pro-independence Kanak president Louis Mapou and Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa, who last year became Sāmoa's first female PM, replacing Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi after 23 years in power.
The primary vehicle for the unity discussion will be the Suva Agreement. In February last year, five Micronesian states - including Kiribati - announced they would leave the forum after a leadership dispute.
After much negotiation, leaders struck a deal in June, which is expected to be clarified at the Forum, particularly in light of Kiribati's departure and dissatisfaction with the agreement.
High on the agenda will be the Blue Pacific Continent strategy - a regional road map to 2050 and the centrepiece of discussions this week.
The high-level strategy is also the vehicle through which approaches to geopolitical issues - such as the influence of China and the United States, which launched a major Pacific push this week - along with the Solomon Islands agreement will be discussed.
Ardern and other leaders have said they aim to provide greater clarity on how to approach those issues in future.
Climate change will again be a major topic, with calls for Australia and New Zealand as the largest and wealthiest - and biggest emitters - to not only do more domestically but raise the issue internationally.
While Albanese has pledged to cut emissions more and increase funding, he has been relatively quiet on the future of coal and gas projects.
He has signalled his intention to co-host an international climate change summit - COP - in the next few years with Pacific nations, so they will be expecting strong action in return for their support.
Vanuatu is also seeking backing for an International Court of Justice case to rule on the climate crisis, and Australia seeking support to co-host a future international climate summit with Pacific countries.
Other topics likely to be discussed include seabed mining, with some countries opposed to the practice altogether and others wanting to develop structures to allow it to continue in a more environmentally-responsible manner. All agree on the need to improve science and research.
Discussions about West Papua and its independence movement from Indonesia are also likely to come up, with support for and against relatively evenly split among countries.
Also to watch for is debate around New Caledonia's independence movement from France with pro-independence Kanak president Louis Mapou, and especially given Australia's recent deal with the French around building nuclear submarines.