A political scientist says a power vacuum within the Pacific Islands Forum has allowed Samoa's prime minister to emerge as the region's dominant leader.
The director of Pasifika at Massey University, Malakai Koloamatangi, said the absence of some leaders and the late arrival of others had opened the door for Tu'ilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi to take a bigger role.
Four of the 18 Pacific leaders are not attending the meeting which got underway on Tuesday, while Australia's prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, will arrive on Friday and the stand in for New Zealand's Bill English, Gerry Brownlee, arrives today.
Dr Koloamatangi said Tu'ilaepa had quite successfully assumed this Pacific leadership role.
"If you look at Samoa hosting the Forum this year, if you look at the Games that were supposed to be held in Tonga now Samoa's got it, the Polynesian Leaders' Group is coming together and more and more people are joining because of the work that Tu'ilaepa's done," he said.
"And of course he is also the chair of the Pacific ACP group. So the list goes on. I think it has given him the opportunity to take the lead as it were."