Asia-Pacific

Pacific Islands Forum: Ardern says NZ refugee offer still on table

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern reiterates her country's offer to house refugees. Source: World Vision/AAP

New Zealand's offer to take in 150 offshore asylum seekers is still on the table as Foreign Minister Marise Payne meets her Kiwi counterpart in Nauru.

A New Zealand offer to Australia to take in offshore asylum seekers remains on the table as Pacific leaders meet in Nauru.

Newly-minted foreign minister Marise Payne met for the first time with Kiwi counterpart Winston Peters on the sidelines of the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru on Tuesday, with refugee resettlement on the agenda.

New Zealand since 2013 has had a standing offer to take in 150 detainees from Manus Island and Nauru, but it's been repeatedly rejected by the Australian government in favour of a deal with the United States over fears it could be used as marketing by people smugglers or a backdoor into Australia.

Mr Peters afterwards told reporters New Zealand would be willing to change its law to prevent those resettled from hopping across the ditch, if that was what was keeping Australia from accepting the offer.

"If that was the barrier - and I don't believe it is - then we could accommodate that," he said.

But he lamented that the refugee issue was dominating the coverage of the forum, given the focus of Pacific leaders on issues such as climate change, sustainability and security.

Meanwhile, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday told reporters the offer had not changed with Australia's foreign minister.

"(It) remains on the table. Nothing has changed in that regard," she said in Wellington.

"It's certainly something I'll be reiterating."

Concerns about conditions in the detention centres on Nauru have cast a shadow over the 18-nations meeting in recent weeks and made it a lightning rod.

A report from two prominent Australian refugee organisations on Monday highlighted concerns over the mental health of children being held and added to a slew of calls for the Australian government to take action to get more than 100 child asylum seekers off the island, including by taking up the New Zealand offer.

Ms Ardern has said she will be raising the detention centres with leaders and was hopeful to meet some of the people living on the island, despite her trip being shortened to a single day on Wednesday.

Nauru's government has denied mistreatment of those being held as well as reports that a much-criticised tent encampment had been dismantled to polish up its image ahead of the forum.

Ms Payne is representing Australia at the meeting, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison pulled out.

Ties with Pacific Island to remain strong: Pyne

Australia's prime minister, Scott Morrison, decided to have Marise Payne attend the Pacific Islands Forum in his stead, citing an urgent need to deal with the drought facing Australian farmers. 

Defence Minister Chris Pyne said he believed there would be no fallout from Mr Morrison's absence at the talks. 

"I think he does a great job getting around the country as quickly as he could," he told Sky News. "It is about how much time he has in the day".

Minister Pyne said he also expected that relations would remain strong over the response to climate change. 

He conceded Pacific Island nations would have a 'dim view' of Australia if it didn't meet its emissions reduction targets.

"There's no doubt the Pacific islands would have a dim view of Australia reducing its commitment to climate change measures - reducing our emissions footprint - but we have no plans to do so," he said.

Refugee offer remains on the table: NZ PM

New Zealand since 2013 has had a standing offer to take in 150 detainees from Manus Island and Nauru, but it's been repeatedly rejected by the Australian government in favour of a deal with the United States over fears it could be used as marketing by people smugglers.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday told reporters the offer had not changed with Australia's foreign minister.

"[It] remains on the table. Nothing has changed in that regard," she said.

"It's certainly something I'll be reiterating."

Concerns about conditions in the detention centres on Nauru have cast a shadow over the forum in recent weeks and made it a lightning rod.

A report from two prominent Australian refugee organisations on Monday highlighted concerns over the mental health of children being held and added to a slew of calls for the Australian government to take action to get more than 100 child asylum seekers off the island, including by taking up the New Zealand offer.

Ms Ardern has said she will be raising the deletion centres with leaders and was hopeful to meet some of the people living on the island, despite her trip being shortened to a single day on Wednesday.

Nauru's government has denied mistreatment of those being held as well as reports that a much-criticised tent encampment had been dismantled to polish up its image ahead of the forum.

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