Australia and New Zealand have become Pacific Games Council associate members ©Pacific Games Council

Australia and New Zealand's integration into the Pacific Games has continued with both nations becoming associate members of the Pacific Games Council (PGC).

The decision was taken by the PGC at their meeting here, which was held alongside the ongoing Pacific Games.

Australia and New Zealand 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 across the four sports of sailing, taekwondo, rugby sevens and weightlifting.

They were again invited to take part in the Pacific Games at Samoa 2019, but across 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.

It is hoped the integration of Australia and New Zealand into the Games will help to raise standards and grow the prestige of the event.

Concerns have been expressed over the potential for the two nations to dominate, while their decision to send development athletes to the Vanuatu 2017 Pacific Mini Games was an issue raised at last year's General Assembly.

Australia and New Zealand were invited to participate in specific sports at Samoa 2019 ©Samoa 2019
Australia and New Zealand were invited to participate in specific sports at Samoa 2019 ©Samoa 2019

The Assembly, held in Apia last June, had seen the endorsement of a motion to create an associate membership category in the organisation's constitution.

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.

Australia and New Zealand have now been confirmed as the first associate members.

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

West Papua, Christmas Island and Hawaii are among territories that have been previously mooted for possible associate membership.

Bougainville and Easter Island were also possible contenders.