Polyfest cancelled, Samoan flag lowered to half mast in Auckland

The last day of Auckland’s most popular and largest Maori Pacific Island’s festival has been cancelled due to the “terrorist attack” in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday.

Thousands of Samoan students participate in the festival every year and are amongst more than 90,000 of people taking part as either performers or spectators at the event. 

Organisers of the ASB Polyfest made the decision on Friday evening “after long discussions”, saying the health and safety of participants at the festival is paramount.   

A ceremony conducted in Maori held at Polyfest grounds yesterday (Saturday) saw the Samoan flag amongst other nations flags being lowered to half-mast to pay tribute to the victims in Christchurch. 

A press conference and the brief ceremony was streamed live on the ASB Polyfest Facebook page. 

During the press conference, ASB Polyfest chairman Gregory Pierce, said the victims of the shooting “were culturally diverse group which is what this festival is all about”. 

Pierce added that Saturday is usually a “family day at the Polyfest” and it would not have been an appropriate environment for children to see armed police officers. 

"The events in Christchurch have unsettled some of our performers, Polyfest staff, schools and our sponsors, and to respect their well-being we have decided to cancel the final day of the festival," he said.

"If the event had gone ahead there would have been a significant presence of heavily armed police at the festival which would not have been appropriate for Saturday's family day focus at the ASB Polyfest.

“After long discussions obviously we realized the level of security that exists around the country following yesterday’s tragic event it would have assisted heavily with armed police at the gates throughout the day."

Still at the press conference, ASB Polyfest Event Director, Seiuli Terri Leo Mauu said the decision to cancel the event is to ensure that students and everyone is safe. 

She acknowledged the hard work from students and families that “worked tirelessly over the last six weeks to prepare for the event” but she hopes they will understand the decision. 

Police officer Tony Wakelin, who was amongst three panelists at the press conference, was equally supportive of the cancellation. 

“We support the decision from Polyfest Board and organisers and it was a tough decision to make,” he said. 

“Let me be clear there is no specific threat to Polyfest but with any incident and event we have got heightened risk throughout the country because of what unfolded yesterday. 

“If the event proceeded we would have to have a police armed response that is to keep the public safety that is priority for these major events…and I couldn’t provide assurance without police armed.”

Since the cancellation late Friday night, people who weren’t aware and still going into Manukau Sports Bowl for the event. 

According to Wakelin armed police were at Manukau yesterday, to ensure the public is safe, armed police will remain there throughout the day. 

The ASB Polyfest was one of several major events that were cancelled in New Zealand following the terrorist attack. 

At least 49 people were killed and 20 seriously injured in a terror attack targeting two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand last Friday.

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