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Pasifika Festival cancelled in Auckland

Pasifika Festival cancelled in Auckland
March 13, 2020

Pasifika Festival scheduled for this weekend (14th to 15th March 2020) has been cancelled as a precautionary measure to reduce the risk of the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19)  with last year’s measles epidemic which took 82 lives, impacting the decision.

More than 400 local and international performers were set to take part in Auckland's 2020 Pasifika Festival, an annual event celebrating Pacific Island communities.

The vibrant event was to feature 11 Pacific communities showcasing their culture to more than 60,000 Aucklanders and visitors.

The organisation that manages the festival - Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) - said they were exploring additional options to help out the businesses, including getting them involved in other Auckland events and markets over the weekend like Ōtara Flea Market, Māngere Flea Market, and Siva Afi Festival at the Māngere Arts Centre.

ATEED General Manager Steve Armitage advised that they were also in conversation with festival partner Pacific Media Network, which had offered advertising and promotional support for stallholders.The issue of refunding the $600 deposit each vendor had to put down would also be up for discussion.

Armitage noted "our Pasifika team will be in touch with stallholders asap in the coming weeks to discuss stall fees refunds."

The decision to cancel was made after discussions between Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday and again this morning.

Overnight, the COVID-19 Cabinet Committee met and considered the issue, and its advice, based on concerns from MFAT and MBIE, was to cancel.

Mayor Goff  advised “while the latest Ministry of Health advice is that New Zealand does not have a community outbreak of Coronavirus and the risk of a community outbreak remains low, Auckland Council and the Cabinet Committee’s specific concerns are about the risk of the virus being transmitted to the Pacific Islands by attendees of the Festival.

“The history of the spread of contagious infections from New Zealand to Samoa, with last year’s measles epidemic which took 82 lives, weighed heavily on our decision.

“It is disappointing for all of us as Aucklanders, and particularly for our Pacific communities, that the festival will not be going ahead this weekend.

“It’s unfortunate to have to cancel an event enjoyed by tens of thousands which celebrates our vibrant Pacific community in Auckland and our multiculturalism.

“However, Aucklanders will understand the council taking common sense steps to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.

Pasifika Festival which was cancelled in 2019 following the Christchurch mosque shootings and Mayor Goff added “it’s particularly disappointing to have to cancel the event for the second year in a row, but in both instances, it is for reasons beyond our control.

“Auckland Council is continuing to monitor the response to coronavirus and is ready to respond to any advice from health authorities to help them share their information and manage any health needs in the Auckland region.

“The future of other public events will be determined on a case-by-case basis, following advice from health authorities and the situation with COVID-19 at the time.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern noted “we’re disappointed, but at the end of the day the health of New Zealanders and the Pacific community is our number one priority.

“We still have no community transmission, but because of new specific advice about the number of people coming into New Zealand for Pacifika who will then return to the Pacific after the event we have decided we need to be extra precautious.

“We have a duty to protect the Pacific from COVID-19, and this decision is all about that.

“We are constantly evaluating the risk situation with COVID-19. In the last 48 hours we have had the first identified case in the Pacific and the global outlook is constantly evolving, so we need to make these decisions based on the most up to date information.

“This is a case of better safe than sorry. I know many in the Pacific community will be disappointed, and I am too. I always look forward to this event. But we have to make sure our communities health and the health of the Pacific is at the forefront of our minds and decisions.”

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