13 Nov 2017

Tongan community calls for fan zones at RLWC

8:51 am on 13 November 2017

The latest violence among rugby league fans has prompted calls for a fan zone, and for World Cup organisers to take more responsibility.

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Rugby league fans at the Kiwis vs Tonga match in Hamilton on Saturday. Photo: PhotoSport

The weekend saw the second mass arrest in South Auckland during the Rugby League World Cup, 29 people having been arrested the week before.

Fifty-three people were arrested for disorder on Saturday night, after Tonga's unexpected and historic win over the Kiwis in Hamilton.

What started out as a celebration turned into mass disorder, drunkenness and violence in the Ōtāhuhu shopping mall at about 9pm on Saturday.

Fireworks were let off near a petrol station and thrown at the police, people crowded roads and footpaths and at one stage an ambulance couldn't get through to attend a 111 call.

Fifty police were brought in to quell the violence.

Pacific Island leaders said they were disgusted by the actions of a few, which had marred what was mostly a festive occasion.

Manukau ward counsellor Alf Filipaina said those involved in the violence had little to no genuine interest in rugby league, but were spoiling for a fight.

"I mean if they want to celebrate and have a fight, have a fight at home. Have a fight with a punching bag, have a fight with just a pillow. Don't use violence as a reason to celebrate," he said.

Fellow Manukau ward counsellor Efeso Collins said while it was a largely a festive occasion, it was spoilt by a small group, who took their excitement too far.

He said a lot of people have commented on social media and also texted him wanting to know why there weren't fan-zones where people could express themselves without causing problems.

Mayor Phil Goff and councillor Efeso Collins at the Auckland Council swearing in ceremony.

Efeso Collins, right, with Auckland mayor Phil Goff. Photo: RNZ / Todd Niall

"Why can't we access The Cloud or the Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau, so that we can actually confine some of this activity? So that people can go out and be excited, wave their flags, toot their horns, hold up traffic, which is all okay as long as it's done in conditions where our elders are there, there's respectful conditions for this behaviour to take place," he said.

Mr Filipaina said he did not blame the police, saying they have spoken to the Pacific community and councillors.

"How do you prepare for a group that large to end up doing what they've done. You can't prepare anything that has the numbers that were arrested," he said.

Tongan Advisory Council chairman Melino Maka said there was a lack of planning by tournament organisers early on.

He said he did not meet with them until several months ago when tournament plans were already well advanced.

That contrasted with the 2011 Rugby World Cup when he was talking to organisers 18 months out.

"Proper planning done even nine months, 12 months out you can actually identify some of these things and then you can put a strategy in place to counter that.

Chair of NZ's Tonga Advisory Council, Melino Maka

Melino Maka Photo: tonganz.net

"But at the moment everybody's scrambling around looking for a solution and those things need to be done well ahead of time," he said.

Mr Maka said the lack of planning has led to disorganisation that's been compounded by Tonga's unexpected success in the tournament.

"The organiser has a special deal with Wellington Council that New Zealand had to play in Wellington. All along they set up this thing, not thinking Tonga will be in the position they are now."

"It makes a mockery of what this tournament is all about. It's all about the tier-one nations, they didn't think the tier-two nations like Tonga would be in the position they are now," he said.

But Tonga has one advantage. If the team is successful in this Saturday's quarter final match against Lebanon in Christchurch, it'll play its semi final at Auckland's Mount Smart stadium, while the Kiwis will be forced to fly to Australia.

Tournament organisers declined to be interviewed.

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