New Zealand has withdrawn its men's under-20 and women's under-18 teams from next year's IIHF World Championship events ©Getty Images

New Zealand has withdrawn its men’s under-20 and women’s under-18 teams from 2022 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a meeting of the New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation (NZIHF) Management Committee it was "unanimously agreed" that the two junior national teams would not be able to participate in their next IIHF World Championships, with events due to start in January 2022.

The NZIHF cited several COVID-19-related factors behind the decision, including safety considerations for the players, the added difficulties of travel, issues with insurance and quarantine requirements.

New Zealand has taken a so-called zero-COVID approach to the pandemic, including strict border controls.

It has recorded 3,913 cases since the beginning of the pandemic and only 27 deaths, faring well compared to the rest of the world.

The country entered lockdown in mid-August after recording its first case of community transmission for more than six months.

New Zealand’s men’s under-20 team finished bottom of Division III of the IIHF World Junior Championship last time they took part in 2019, while the Kiwi women’s under 18 team finished second in Group B of Division II.

Both teams also withdrew from this year’s events because of the pandemic.

The men’s under-20s were due to play in Mexico in January 2022, with the women’s under-18s scheduled to travel to Turkey.

The NZIHF said no decision had been made over the involvement of the men’s under-18 team nor the senior men’s and women’s sides at their respective World Championships later in 2022.

Lower divisions of the World Championships for these three teams were all cancelled this year due to the pandemic.

The IIHF also confirmed that Iran has withdrawn from the 2022 Women’s World Championship Division III Group B, but its men’s team will enter the World Championship Division IV for the first time.