Murihiku Polyfest: Don't forget about us

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 05:00 05/09/2014
Polyfest
JOHN HAWKINS/ FairfaxNZ

TRADITIONS: Reina Webster, 11, and Jemiour Collins, 11, lead the St Patrick’s School group from Invercargill at Murihiku Polyfest, which organisers say attracted a bigger crowd per capita than the ASB Polyfest.

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Murihiku Polyfest organisers are warning the Government not to forget about the southern pasifika community.

Minister of Pacific Island Affairs Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga has announced, if re-elected, the National government would give $200,000 to the Auckland ASB Polyfest during the next three years.

About 9000 pupils from schools across Auckland participate in the annual event.

However, Murihiku Polyfest co-ordinator Lisa Tou-McNaughton said, per capita, the Southland festival attracted a bigger crowd than the ASB Polyfest.

Almost 4000 pupils participated in the event, which ran from August 26-29, she said.

The total population of Southland, according to 2013 Census data, is 93,339.

This compares to 9000 pupils participating at the ASB Polyfest, out of Auckland's population of 1.42 million.

While the announcement was exciting for the ASB Polyfest, the numbers showed Southland's event was also worthy of funding, Tou-McNaughton said.

"[Murihiku Polyfest] is a pretty big event in the scheme of things.

"Don't forget about us."

The participation rate also demonstrated how much Murihiku Polyfest had been embraced by the Southland community, she said.

Lotu-Iiga said there were no plans at this stage to provide funding for other festivals, like Murihiku Polyfest, but the Government would be happy to look at proposals and submit feedback.

The ASB Polyfest was one of the largest in the world, and the additional funding would help ensure its sustainability, he said.

The cost of staging the event had increased during the years, and this year's festival had been hit hard by Cyclone Lusi, which affected attendance and revenue, Lotu-Iiga said.

The minister believed celebrating cultural identity was essential for the wellbeing of a community, and said the Government recognised the need to preserve Pacific language, culture and values.

Events such as the ASB and Murihiku Polyfest provided opportunities for families and young people to come together and share their cultural heritage through song, speech and dance.

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