24 Jan 2018

Students gather to set the tone for Polyfest 2018

7:03 pm on 24 January 2018

Student leaders gathered today to set the tone for Polyfest - the largest Pacific secondary school dance festival in the world - after fights in Auckland overshadowed the successes onstage last year.

Sacred Heart College at Polyfest.

A file picture of a previous Polyfest. Photo: RNZ/Koro Vaka'uta

The fights, which were outside the Auckland event, were shared on social media but did not lead to any arrests at the time.

Of the 90,000 people who went to the four-day event, only two were arrested.

School is not back yet but with just seven weeks until Polyfest - there was a lot of work to be done.

Festival director Seiuli Terri Leo Mauu said it was the first time a leadership day had been organised.

Students would be encouraged to stay safe, be good leaders, and share positive videos on social media.

"Pull out your phone to do something positive rather than filming a fight."

Counties Manukau District Pacific Liaison officer Romeo Chungson said he did not want the same distractions this year.

"We just want to make sure the students are out there enjoying themselves, being proud about where they're from and obviously not taking it to that next level."

Year 13 student leader at Marist College Melania Uhatafe said Polyfest was all about "building relationships, embracing the culture, enhancing traditions, teaching the culture to anyone who's willing to learn and just embracing who we are".

Her classmate Mani Tafa said they were leading the way.

"Young Pacific people at our school they tend to shy away from leadership roles because of who they are. But now that they see us up there ... having roles ... they know they have the potential."

Some schools had already started rehearsing, despite school not returning until next week.

"We've started our practices because we just decided that since Poly is so early we should have as much time as possible so we've rounded everybody up," said Jade Mamea-Etuata from Avondale College.

"And we've not started those serious hard-out sweating practices, it's just those run-through ones and establishing the ground rules."

She was taking her leadership role in the Niuean group seriously, she said.

"For all of us [leaders] I want us to just achieve coming across to our group as a solid front. I want to seem united so that the people we're leading have faith in us. They believe we can lead them properly to a placing or to a win."

Polyfest begins on 14 March at Manukau Sports Bowl.

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