Organisers are expecting thousands of people to celebrate the return of Pasifika Festival when it opens in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland today.
Cancelled the past two years due to the Christchurch terror attacks and the Covid-19 pandemic, the two-day festival also returns 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.
What to expect
Entertainment: Eight villages have been set up with nine Pacific Island nations represented this year.
Seven villages will feature the Pacific nations of Aotearoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu.
Each village has a performance stage where cultural groups entertain the crowds with their traditional and contemporary dances.
Market stalls selling signature dishes, arts and crafts unique to each culture are also set up in each village.
The eighth village, new to the festival this year, is the Fale Pasifika Village that will host Hawai'i and Kiribati alongside a jam-packed line-up of live acts and performances.
This afternoon, the Pacific youth choir and orchestra, Sistema Aotearoa, will take to the Fale Pasifika Village stage along with Pacific dance group, Ura Tabu.
Tomorrow, the Fale Pasifika Village line-up includes New Zealand singer-songwriter Seth Haapu and musician Lavina Williams, winner of the 2017 Benny Award 'Pacific Entertainment Award for Top Female Vocalist'.
The final act at the Fale Pasifika Village is the legendary George 'Fiji' Veikoso. His fusion of reggae, hip-hop and R&B has garnered him a huge international following and he is widely considered a pioneer of the Pacific Island sound.
Food: The festival is the perfect way to take a culinary tour of the Pacific. Transport your taste buds to the tropics and check out the dozens of food stalls.
Sample super-fresh seafood, or pre-prepared hāngī or umu washed down with a tropical banana smoothie or the refreshing Tongan watermelon drink, otai.
Don't forget to make room for dessert as there will plenty of sweet treats on offer.
With thousands of people expected to attend Pasifika, organisers said the area around Mt Smart Stadium would be busy.
The public is being urged to plan ahead and to use the Auckland Transport Journey Planner. The nearest train station to Mt Smart is Penrose, which is a 10-15 minute walk from the stadium. Face coverings are mandatory on public transport.
A free park and ride service between Waikaraka Park and Mt Smart Stadium will operate on both days. No bookings are required with shuttles running on a 30-minute schedule from 10am until the festival closes.
Face coverings will be required on the shuttles. There is no on-site parking at the stadium with limited parking on the surrounding streets. Local businesses will open premises for parking for a small fee. Beasley Ave will be closed.
For transport options visit: Transport & accessibility | Aucklandnz.com
Weather and Covid-19
Organisers said the festival will go ahead - rain or sunshine. Guide dogs and mobility scooters are allowed on-site.
Some vendors may not have Eftpos facilities so please bring cash. A cash-out facility is available on-site. Please be reminded that Pasifika Festival is a smoke and alcohol-free event.
Pasifika has been able to go ahead under Alert Level 1 and will be delivered in line with the Health Ministry's Covid-19 guidelines.
Festival goers are encouraged to scan in using the QR code at the main gates and to have the Bluetooth tracing function switched on. QR codes will be prominently displayed throughout the festival venue.
Hand sanitiser stations and the Covid-19 Sani Squad will be available. Organisers said anyone who is unwell or displaying any Covid symptoms to stay at home.
This weekend's Pasifika Festival is organised by Auckland Unlimited and Auckland Council in partnership with The Pasifika Festival Villages Charitable Trust.