A new era dawns as Polyfest numbers grow
A special flag-raising ceremony marked the end of one era and the beginning of another at the opening of the 40th annual ASB Polyfest on Wednesday.
This will be the first year without long-serving festival kaumatua Eru Thompson, who died in November.
A record 64 schools from the greater Auckland region will take part in the festival in Manukau.
More than 10,000 students will perform.
More than 80,000 people are expected to attend the festival over four days.
The flag ceremony took place at sunrise on raised ground overlooking the Maori Stage and was officiated by kaumatua Martin Cooper who played a prominent role with, and in support of, Eru Thompson.
A strong welcome by Nga Puna o Waiorea students of Western Springs College set the scene.
Representatives from each island nation spoke followed by Minister for Pacific Peoples Peseta Sam LotuIiga who told the crowd it was an ‘‘honour and privilege’’ to be there.
‘‘It’s been 40 years since the festival started and I wasn’t even born then.
‘‘Today is about our young people from the outreaches of Auckland – they come here to celebrate the enjoy- ment of being Maori and Pacific.
‘‘We also celebrate African, Asian and other cultures.
‘‘Your culture and language mean something. They’re important to this country.’’
Mayor Len Brown ramped up the crowd on what he called an ‘‘historic’’ day.
‘‘It’s my real pleasure to acknowledge everyone here and reflect on the spirit of this occasion to formally open the 40th ASB Polyfest. Welcome to the Southside,’’ he cheered.
The opening ended with a waiata led by the mayor.
The festival has grown from small beginnings in 1976 when four schools took part: Seddon High School (now Western Springs College), Aorere College, Mangere College and Hillary College (now Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate).
It is now the largest Maori and Pacific Island festival of its type in the world.
Fine voice: Nga Puna o Waiorea students from Western Springs College welcome participants.
Opening day: Minister for Pacific Peoples MP Peseta Sam LotuIiga at the opening of Polyfest.