Minister urges caution as Pasifika Festival returns

Organisers of the Pasifika Festival are expecting thousands of people are expected to celebrate the return of Pasifika Festival when it opens in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland this morning.

Cancelled the past two years due to the Christchurch terror attacks and the Covid-19 pandemic, the two-day festival returns but to a new venue at Mt Smart Stadium. Previously it was held at Western Springs.

Organisers say the festival showcases Pacific cultures of the city with music, dance, arts, crafts, demonstrations, storytelling and food.

Hundreds of performers, artists and artisans are taking part.

Richard Clarke, head of Major and Business Events at Auckland Unlimited, said there was great anticipation for the festival this year.

Clarke said after being cancelled for the last two years, it was 'fantastic to be able to proceed with Pasifika Festival this year'.

"It's an iconic event that celebrates our wonderful Pacific communities and brings together family, friends and communities.

"Pasifika is a must-attend event if you want to experience the sights, sounds and flavours of the Pacific. There will be fantastic performances, vibrant costumes and delicious food."

Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, had a message of gratitude.

He said it was a time to thank the communities for their support throughout the past two years.

Aupito said the team of five million stood in solidarity during the Christchurch massacre and continued to do so with the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We have the highest rate of testing and that's credit to the leadership, credit to our Pacific communities playing their part in it.

"It's also been challenging for our communities who are essentially we're social beings, we're very intimate people. We love to hug and kiss and sharing food and sharing our dancing and our music.

"We need these opportunities and these sombre times because those same activities put us at a great risk of Covid-19."

Aupito said he had attended the Pacific festival in Wellington and the Dunedin event and there were other areas holding similar events.

"Auckland will be looking forward to just coming together and celebrating and being confident as Pacific peoples of Aotearoa. And it's a good thing."

Aupito said he would be bringing along the Prime Minister and some of his colleagues to the festival.

He said while people could move with confidence, "we also got to always be constantly alert and be vigilant.

"We need to be particularly mindful of our elders and those who have illnesses and the message is always the same whilst Covid-19 continues to ravage the world. And that is if you're sick, you stay home.

"And in public areas, it's advisable to be wearing a mask. And we ask people to just be still confident be confident but be cautious.

"The good thing is we are rolling the vaccine and we are completing vaccination of our border and front-line workers and their families and we're starting the vaccinations for the vulnerable in South Auckland and those aged 65 and over."

Aupito said this was the 'year of the vaccine' and people should 'feel confident to come out but be vigilant.'

The festival opens from 10am to 8pm today and from 10am-4pm tomorrow.