13 Mar 2015

Leaders call for Pasifika boycott

8:19 am on 13 March 2015

Two Pacific Island leaders have called on their communities to boycott this weekend's Pasifika Festival over concerns about the private company running the event.

The crowd at Pasifika Festival in Auckland, 2015.

The crowd at Pasifika Festival in Auckland, 2015. Photo: ATEED

Orange Productions, which is organising the event, expected about 80,000 people in total for Saturday and Sunday at the celebration of Pacific Island culture and heritage.

Taha Fasi and Will 'Ilolahia said Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) should have consulted the Pacific Island community before letting a private company run the event.

It is another headache for the organiser which has had to shift the festival from its 23-year home of Western Springs Park to Hayman Park in South Auckland after Queensland fruit flies were discovered in Grey Lynn.

Mr Fasi, a former communities co-ordinator for the festival, said the Council's focus was wrong.

"Is council ATEED focusing only on its monetary return on the event rather than delivering, and pay whatever the cost, this community based pasifika festival?"

However he still expected a decent turnout as stallholders had paid in advance to be there.

But Mr 'Ilolahia, a former Pasifika Festival advisory board member, said that was down from 200,000 when it began and was a one-day event.

He said a reason for the drop was that Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development advertised the event through the wrong channels.

He said the $75,000 spent on advertising should have gone to Pasifika media organisations.

"Over the last few years there has been a dramatic drop in attendance to Pasifika Festival.

"That's due to a lot of the Pasifika media no longer promoting it, because their concern is that they don't get any advertising budget from the council, yet the budget is given to mainstream advertising, or non-Pacific."

However, communications manager for ATEED, Charmaine Ngarimu, said that was incorrect.

She said the event had been promoted through MaiFM, 531 pi and Niu FM - all of which have strong connections with the Pacific Island community.

And Ms Nagarimu said ATEED went through the proper process with contracting the festival out to Orange, while its general manager, Keiran Frost, said the number of people attending had not dropped recently, but have actually increased.

Mr Frost also said the groups involved in the festival this year have been generally supportive.

"Obviously the curve-ball of the fruit fly has been a challenge but from our perspective all of the suppliers have bent over backwards.

"It's been a huge effort and everyone's been massively supportive."

Mr Frost says the big unknown was really the weather as Cyclone Pam is expected to hit New Zealand on Sunday.