New Zealand's focus is reportedly on the Commonwealth Games ©Getty Images

New Zealand is not attending this month's Pacific Mini Games in Saipan because the country is focussing on the Commonwealth Games, it has been claimed.

The Kiwis were invited to compete in three sports at the event in the Northern Mariana Islands but have turned down the offer.

Andrew Minogue, the Pacific Games Council (PCC) chief executive, said this was because of the close proximity of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

The Saipan event is due to take place between June 17 and 25 with Birmingham 2022 scheduled to open on July 28.

"New Zealand is not coming in their three invited sports because they are committed to the Commonwealth Games in the United Kingdom in July," Mingoue told the Saipan Tribune.

New Zealand were invited to compete in athletics, beach volleyball and weightlifting in Saipan.

Australia, the other regional powerhouse, has taken up its offer to compete, however.

They will send 14 athletes in track and field and five in weightlifting, although beach volleyball has been declined.

"We have very good support from Australia," Minogue said.

Marco Peter, the chair of the Pacific Mini Games Organising Committee, said he was "disappointed" that New Zealand wouldn't be attending as they are "one of the biggest countries in the region".

The involvement of Australia and New Zealand has long been a topic of debate for the Pacific Games.

The presence of New Zealand and Australia at the Pacific Games has been a topic for debate ©Samoa 2019
The presence of New Zealand and Australia at the Pacific Games has been a topic for debate ©Samoa 2019

If both countries sent full strength teams they would dominate and leave the smaller island nations without a look in. 

However, the nations both became associate members of the PCC in 2019 and some believe their presence could help raise standards, especially if they are restricted to invited sports.

Australia and New Zealand competed for the first time at the Port Moresby Pacific Games in 2015 and then appeared in Samoa in 2019.

In 2017, both countries appeared at the Pacific Mini Games in Vanuatu.

The athletes both teams have sent have often been developmental.

insidethegames has approached the New Zealand Olympic Committee for comment.

Nine sports are on the programme in Saipan.

The Games were delayed from 2021 to 2022 because of the coronavirus pandemic and the destruction caused by Super Typhoon Yutu.