THE Pacific islands routinely get accused of all sorts of dysfunctionality ... but the idea to hold this year's Pacific Island Forum in the island nation of Nauru must have been some gleefully dysfunctional maniac's idea of a really good joke.
In short, Nauru is where **** happens — big time.
The nation's colourful yet sorry history is literally centred on it, and the tradition metaphorically continues equally big time.
Bird**** — or, more precisely, guano — was Nauru's original golden goose, and once made up a goodly chunk of the its geology.
The tiny island — not much bigger than LA International Airport — was a toilet stop for a gazillion seabirds over many millennia.
And my, how those legions of little deposits added up to one mother of a dump.
Where there's muck there's brass, and it wasn't too long before several countries twigged that all those rich guano phosphates could seriously help grow stuff.
A few dirty deals were done, with little old Enzed in there, boots and all.
Before long, our hills were alive with squadrons of Biggles-type characters in converted Tiger Moths dumping tonnes of Nauru parson's-nose powder, force-feeding marginal grass to sweeten the wool cheque even more.
For a while it worked beautifully, and many a spanking new Studebaker Starliner or Buick Roadmaster was bankrolled by the dashing Biggles boys' exploits.
Indeed, where once the community raised statues to heroes felled in foreign fields, now moves were afoot to give monumental expression to the economic blessings of Nauru' s natural bounty.
In the end, the only reason the public was denied a suitable sculptural homage to Nauru's white gold was that it would have needed the creative genius of a Len Lye to kinetically depict the accreted splendour of several millennia worth of contracting seagull sphincters.
Alas, Len was busy with his wind wand at the time.
In the meantime, Nauru got itself into a serious fat-cat zone, courtesy of royalties on their God-given guano.
In 1980 they were deemed to be the wealthiest nation per capita on the planet.
By 2017 they'd plunged to be one of the five poorest, as well as the fattest. Something certainly happened on the way to the Pacific Forum ...
What happened? Well, more **** happened.
With bloated bank balances, Nauruans stopped going fishing and imported pate foie gras and all manner of junk food instead.
Nek minute, they had multiple-digit diabetes, and presented as sumo wrestlers minus the muscle tone.
With the guano stripped and much of the island now a moonscape, they desperately sought to parley what foreign reserves were left into ever more fantastical schemes to maintain the manner to which they wanted to remain accustomed — everything from nutty musicals to big-time money laundering.
Then along came Australia with a big cheque ... if only Nauru didn't mind running a concentration camp for stray boat people.
And space doesn't permit even a glance at all the home-grown government corruption with suppression of the judiciary, press et al. What message the Pacific nations sent out by choosing to convene in Nauru reeks of bird pats.
Yet our own Prime Minister's hubris deemed it so important she spent roughly a hundred grand's worth of potential school lunches to be specially flown in for just one day, avowing her presence essential to Pacific solidarity.
Whatever deathless words she managed to deliver won't matter much to the PM of Nauru's de facto patron state, Australia, because he couldn't be stuffed turning up even without the excuse of a suckling infant.
In effect, she didn't regard her fellow Pacific leaders as mature enough to recognise that certain post-partum responsibilities might sensibly have precluded her attending, and Foreign Minister Peters didn't pass the sniff test as our representative.
With poor Nauru, somehow everything it touches turns to guano.