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Pasifika Festival is all grown up, celebrating its sweet 16th with a new theme, stage and the acknowledgement of one of Aotearoa's most renowned musical families.

This year's Pasifika celebrates the eel, connecting with the Maori name for Western Springs: Te Wai Orea - The Lake of Eels.

A new section named Honouring Families will acknowledge families who have made a great contribution to the music or performing industry in New Zealand. This year will feature the Monga family, with couple Betty-Anne and Ryan Monga a part of the poly-fonk group Ardijah, which has been a hit for the past 20 years with their distinctive Pacific/Maori sound.

Pasifika Festival arts co-ordinator Tanya Muagututi'a said Honouring Families is an acknowledgement of the past. "Music has gone really retro so before we go ahead, we want to acknowledge those who have gone before us. Honouring Families acknowledges the concept of aiga and the importance of family."

Ardijah vocalist Betty-Anne said it was a nice surprise to be asked to take part in this year's Honouring Families. "It makes you realise: `Ooh! You've been around for a while!"'

One of Auckland's major annual free events, the Pasifika Festival, is the world's largest display of Pacific arts, attracting more than 225,000 people each year.

Pasifika features 10 villages from places such as the Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Samoa, Tahiti, Kiribati, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and its newest village Tangata Whenua, acknowledging the people of the land.

This year sees an array of performances from local and overseas talent, including Pacific reggae pioneers Herbs, King Kapisi, Beetrootz and winners of last year's Smokefree Pacifica Beats, all-girl band Vivah.

Miss South Pacific Tessi Leila Toluta'u is flying in for the event, as well as cultural groups from Tonga, Fiji, the Cook Islands and Samoa's hottest hip-hop act Zipso.

Pasifika Festival is the kick-start of Celebrate Pasifika, a four-week Pacific experience.


* Pasifika Festival is in its 16th year and is the largest Pacific event in the world, attracting over 200,000 people a year.

* Today is festival day, starting from 10am to 5pm.

* It is held at Auckland's Western Springs Park, beside the Auckland Zoo on Great North Rd.

* Buses will run from New Lynn, Newmarket (277 Broadway) and Britomart. Catch a train to Britomart and take a bus to Great North Rd. A free park and ride service is available from Unitec on Carrington Rd.

* Public parking is available at Western Springs College for $5 for the day.