Australia and New Zealand's involvement in the Pacific Games could grow further ©Samoa 2019

Australia and New Zealand’s participation in the Pacific Games is expected to grow further in future editions, Pacific Games Council (PGC) chief executive Andrew Minogue has revealed. 

Both nations are competing at the Games for the second time, having debuted four years ago in Papua New Guinea's capital Port Moresby.

The nations participated in four sports - sailing, taekwondo, rugby sevens and weightlifting.

They were again invited to take part in the Pacific Games at Samoa 2019, but in a greater number of sports.

Australia are competing in athletics, beach volleyball, rugby sevens, sailing, taekwondo and weightlifting.

Athletes from archery, athletics, taekwondo and weightlifting are representing New Zealand, who were also permitted to field an under-23 football team.

Both Australia and New Zealand were granted associate membership of the PGC after a vote from members on Sunday (June 14).

Minogue expects Australia and New Zealand’s presence to increase as they move towards a "truly continental Games".

The PGC chief executive suggested it could be possible for the two nations to be represented in around half of the programme at Solomon Islands 2023, where 24 sports are due to feature.

Australia and New Zealand became associate members of the PGC on Sunday ©Pacific Games Council
Australia and New Zealand became associate members of the PGC on Sunday ©Pacific Games Council

"I expect the Solomon Islands will also be a transitional Games, but I would expect to see them in more than the eight events they are in here," Minogue told insidethegames.

"I do not want to set a number, but I think the expectation might be around 50 per cent of the programme.

"But we still have to do work on that.

"I think we will ultimately see a truly continental Games, I think we are heading in that direction.

"The Games are in transition, the same traditions and certainties we are all used to are here.

"New Caledonia are winning the medal tally, Tahiti, Samoa and Fiji are in the next batch and those same countries are winning medals in the pool.

"The balance of the Games has not really changed.

"At the same time there are things happening with Australia and New Zealand that are very, very important, not just to them but to other countries that are competing in those sports.

"Over time that transition will continue.

"That programme is going to grow, no doubt about it.

"While you can point to traditions that keep happening you can keep the family together on the same page.

"That’s why the vote when through unanimously."

New Zealand have participated in five sports at Samoa 2019 ©Samoa 2019
New Zealand have participated in five sports at Samoa 2019 ©Samoa 2019

There had been fears the introduction of Australia and New Zealand could lead to the region’s two powerhouses dominating competitions.

Currently they occupy fifth and seventh place on the Samoa 2019 medals table respectively, with Australia’s performance similar to their display at Port Moresby 2015.

"Australia have basically accepted all of their invitations and if it is not a qualification where they send their best athletes, they will send a group of athletes that meets their development objectives," Minogue said.

"New Zealand’s approach is a bit difference and I think they prioritise what is a qualification pathway.

"New Zealand want to be here and be part of us, they have sent 50 athletes and are visible and doing well.

"I was speaking to an official from one of the island nations, who pointed out at the African Games you have small nations battling the likes of Nigeria and Egypt, while the Pan Ams see small Caribbean Islands competing against the likes of the United States.

"It is normal.

"I think our region starts to understand that."

Easter Island have approached the PGC about the possibility of becoming an associate member ©Getty Images
Easter Island have approached the PGC about the possibility of becoming an associate member ©Getty Images

The associate membership category was created in the PGC’s constitution last year.

Associate membership of the Council may be granted by the PGC Executive Board to other countries and territories in Oceania.

It enables the associate members to compete in editions of the Pacific Games and Pacific Mini Games, based on terms set by the Executive Board.

Associate members will not hold voting rights and are unable to host either of the Games.

Minogue revealed the PGC had been approached by both Easter Island and Pitcairn Islands in the past year about the possibility of becoming associate members.

Easter Island is a Chilean island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, which is famed for the 900 moai statues.

The statutes are located in the Rapa Nui National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The population of Easter Island was recorded as being 7,750 in a 2017 census.

Pitcairn Islands are a British overseas territory, consisting of four islands.

The islands are famed for where nine mutineers from the Mutiny on the Bounty settled and ultimately burned the ship in 1790.

Pitcairn Islands have a degree of Local Government, making it the least populous national jurisdiction in the world.

The last census recorded estimated that 50 people are living on the Pitcairn Islands.