3 Nov 2017

Heightened tensions between Samoan & Tongan league fans

From Checkpoint, 5:39 pm on 3 November 2017

Māori wardens in South Auckland fear a fresh wave of violence will erupt between Samoan and Tongan rugby league supporters on the streets tonight. 

The police arrested six people last night after hundreds of Samoan and Tongan fans gathered in the car parks surrounding the Otara town centre. 

There have been heightened tension between the two factions, with several fights taking place in Otahuhu and Otara this week. 

Mereana Peka leads a team of Māori wardens in Otara.

She estimated more than 500 Samoan and Tonga supporters converged on the town centre last night. 

But while the honking and flag waving may have been jubilant at first, locals said the mood soon turned sour with many looking for a fight. 

"It started about lunch time and we were starting to see people coming to Otara with their flags. By eight o'clock last night it was just riotous. 

"We couldn't even get out of the carpark because the cars were just bumper to bumper and flags everywhere, people out on the roads. There was a lot of rarking of other cultures and it wasn't very nice."

The police arrested six people during the clash. 

They are expected to keep a heavy presence there again tonight. 

Ms Peka expected more violence tonight. 

"Even after the game it will continue because then we're going to have the team that's going to be celebrating and then the other team that's ... oh my gosh it's just chaos. It's chaos."

Tongan supporter David Siliva said the violence in Otara had escalated in the last few days.

"They pretty much look at people roaming around with flags and follow them and as soon as they stop they start throwing punches and bottles."

Mr Siliva said the violence was a waste of time, and the fans would be better off showing genuine support for their teams.  

Rana Judge from the Otara Business Association said they had been forced to remove people from the town centre.

"The customers are scared and the business people are scared as well because these people come in big group, the adults, children, a big mixture, and they're noisy and aggressive. 

Town centre administrator David Vainui said school-aged fans had been using flags from a local two-dollar shop to conceal objects that can be used as weapons. 

"Two-by-four wood inside the flag and walking around trying to hide it away from everybody."

Mr Vainui estimated he destroyed about 15 such objects this week.

Nearby, Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate has banned students from displaying flags or symbols in a bid to keep things calm. 

The police met with community leaders late last night and said they were using their influence to calm things down. 

It hoped this would encourage better behaviour from league fans ahead of the game at Waikato stadium tomorrow night.