Pasifika Festival cancelled - Phil Goff

Auckland's Pasifika Festival has been cancelled as a precautionary measure amid COVID-19 concerns, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has announced.

The decision was made after discussions between Phil Goff and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday and again on Friday morning.

"While the latest Ministry of Health advice is that New Zealand does not have a community outbreak of COVID-19 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," Goff said.

"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."

Social Development Minister and Associate Minister for Pacific Peoples, Carmel Sepuloni, reiterated the decision was finalised following a COVID-19 Cabinet Committee meeting.

Both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) had expressed concerns.

"[Ministry] advice indicated the large number of people in attendance from the Pacific and travelling back from the Pacific. The large nature of event... with around 60,000-plus people attending, would have meant that contact tracing would have been incredibly difficult."

She also noted the "detrimental" impact COVID-19 would have if an attendee became infected and travelled back to the Pacific. Challenges such as resourcing, health infrastructure and common health conditions such as diabetes were cited as prime reasons why COVID-19 could be damaging to the Pasifika population.

Goff reiterated the risk of COVID-19 transmission in Auckland and New Zealand as a whole remains low. According to health authorities, the risk of infection at events is also "extraordinarily low".

"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," Goff said.

He noted that organisers of events will be consulted before any decision-making and as long as public health messages are disseminated and adhered to, not all large-scale events will be cancelled.

In a statement, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: "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 have a duty to protect the Pacific from COVID-19.

"This is a case of better safe than sorry." 

This is the second consecutive year that Pasifika Festival has been cancelled.