20 Mar 2015

Backdown on donation ban

3:31 pm on 20 March 2015

The organisers of Auckland's Polyfest have backed down on a decision to bar Red Cross from collecting donations for Vanuatu.

Red Cross workers waiting to distribute aid in Port Vila, Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam

Red Cross workers are currently helping to distribute aid in Vanuatu. Photo: RNZI / Koroi Hawkins

The charity had asked to have collection buckets at the four-day event, the world's largest Pasifika festival.

Red Cross said the organisers told them they had never allowed collectors in the past, and they did not want people at the event to feel compelled or uncomfortable about handing over money.

They also said they did not have enough time to examine the implications for future groups or events.

The organisers had now agreed to give the charity a free stall where they could have a fundraising bucket.

Festival director Theresa Howard denied the backdown was due to media pressure.

"It [has] not necessarily changed our minds. When we first got approached, it was on Wednesday and that was our first day of events," she said.

"We were getting quite an aggressive approach and we just wanted to make sure that the checks were carried out and the process was followed."

Red Cross disappointed at initial reaction

Melino Maka, who is part of the Red Cross' Pacific team in New Zealand, thought the organisation and their collection buckets would be welcomed with open arms by festival organisers.

Mr Maka said it was very disappointing, as he would have thought a Pasifika event would be keen to help a Pacific country in its time of need.

Vanuatu Consul-General in Auckland McKenzie Kalotiti said he was not surprised by the decision

He said Ni Vanuatu were reserved in New Zealand and, with just under 500 citizens here, were in the minority.

He suspected that if there were a similar disaster in Samoa, Tonga or Fiji, the decision might have been different.

Naming sponsor ASB said it had no input in the decision, saying it was up to event organisers.

Polyfest is a competition between secondary schools showcasing their various Pacific cultures.

Red Cross letter to Polyfest

18 March 2015

Theresa Howard - Director

Dear Ms Howard

Request for Red Cross volunteers and Vanuatu community members to collect for Tropical Cyclone Pam at Polyfest 2015

I am writing to you after an initial approach from the Red Cross Secretary General's Pacific Advisory Group Chair, Melino Maka, to collect donations toward assisting those affected by Tropical Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu and the wider Pacific over the last 5 days.

NZ Red Cross has opened a special appeal this week to collect funds that will go directly to Vanuatu to assist in emergency response and recovery.

At a meeting in Auckland last night, the Vanuatu community discussed with NZ Red Cross the possibility of partnering to collect at coming community events that would allow the wider Pacific community to make a contribution in supporting the people of Vanuatu and other Island nations directly affected in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Pam.

In working with the Vanuatu community, NZ Red Cross, through our Auckland Service Centre, would ensure collectors are identifiable with Red Cross Tee-shirts and collection buckets are sealed and clearly marked with the Red Cross insignia. All collection buckets would come directly to NZ Red Cross and be accounted for and included in the special appeal.

Permission to collect at Polyfest 2015 would assist in supporting those affected by this disaster and empower the Auckland Vanuatu community in supporting and responding to the critical needs of family in Vanuatu and other Pacific Islands affected by Tropical Cyclone Pam.

I seek that permission be granted by Polyfest 2015 for this community activity.

Yours faithfully

Shane La'ulu

Pacific Advisor/Humanitarian Services Manager - Central Region

NZ Red Cross - Ripeka Whero Aotearoa

Polyfest's response letter

Dear Melino,

Thank you for your email. I am sure that all members of the ASB Polyfest community are sympathetic to your request for support for the people of Vanuatu.

The ASB Polyfest has never, in the years that the Trust has been responsible for the event, allowed groups to seek donations and/or support for any community groups and/or a specific cause. Inside the event people should not feel compelled or feel uncomfortable about handing over money.

The board would need to formally approve your proposal and examine the risks and implications of it for future groups and events. This will not happen before the end of ASB Polyfest as there is a strict process that we must adhere to. Considering this, along with other event related matters and the timeframe of this request, we will not be able to assist you on this occasion.

I hope you appreciate the position of the Board. All the very best with your fundraising activities. It is for a very worthy cause.

S W Bovaird


ASB Polyfest Team