'No one's missing?' Jacinda Ardern jokes with NZ journalists after detention of reporter

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joked with journalists as she arrived in Nauru for a forum with other Pacific leaders.

"No one's missing?," Ms Ardern asked the contingent of New Zealand journalists covering the forum.

Ms Ardern was making light of a contentious situation. New Zealand journalist Barbara Dreaver, who has spent years covering Pacific issues for TVNZ, was detained by Nauru police for several hours on Tuesday after meeting with a refugee.

The Nauru government has released a statement saying Ms Dreaver was not "detained" by police, but "voluntarily accompanied them".

That claim is denied by Ms Dreaver, who says it was not voluntary.

"They ordered me to turn off the camera, confiscated my phone for 3-4 hours, told me I had breached visa conditions, said they were taking me to police station and ordered me into the police vehicle.

"They were professional throughout the entire process but it was not voluntary," Ms Dreaver said.

The Nauru government's statement says no journalists have been prevented from talking to refugees, but said journalists have to follow procedures in order to do so. "Other journalists did this, and the government has assisted them to visit the refugee residential communities, schools, hospitals and access other parts of the island."

Nauru has become a focus point for contentious migration issues. It's one of the offshore islands used by Australia to detain asylum seekers attempting to enter Australia. Human rights advocates have long raised grave concerns about conditions on the islands, where people including children are held for indefinite periods of time.

The spotlight on asylum seekers has highlighted a key difference in stances between New Zealand's coalition partners. While Labour campaigned on doubling the refugee quota to 1500 people a year, and repeated that goal while in Government, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has since said there's no such commitment to raise the quota. Mr Peters has also expressed a desire to stop migrants from using New Zealand as a "backdoor" to Australia.