A church that has been considered anti-vax yesterday hosted a vaccination event to encourage remaining unvaccinated members to get their first dose - and reframe anti-vax perceptions of the church.
Church leaders and members of the Tokaikolo 'Ia Kalaisi church in Māngere Bridge lined the entranceway to the church, waving the Tongan flag as cars beeped and people waved while driving past.
A speaker was set up on the front lawn of a house nearby, blasting music out to the neighbourhood.
The Niuean, Fiji and Cook Islands flags were being waved, too.
"I'm not even Cook Island," laughed the flag bearer as more cars beeped, and others drove in to wait in line for their vaccination.
The large majority of church members had already been vaccinated, said Frank Koloi, marketing and communications manager for The Fono.
"This church has been perceived in mainstream New Zealand as well as the Tongan community as not supportive, or anti-vaxxers.
"That's one of the things the church leadership wanted to take place today - is to dismiss some of that belief.
"Like many other churches there are members in different churches that are vocal against vaccination, but the bulk, and the large majority of this church's members have already been vaccinated."
The Fono was approached by the church to be the clinical lead for the event after the Auckland congregation surveyed its 700 to 1000 members to find out who had yet to be vaccinated.
Most of the 200 members who had not yet received their first dose said they would like to be vaccinated.
"When it was suggested if they would come to a vaccination event here at the church grounds, they all were excited to join in."
The survey took place a month ago and Koloi, who is also a member of the church, says the day was the culmination of a lot of work from the church leadership. Just a few minutes past 9am, when the event began, cars steadily streamed through behind him.
It was an emotional and humbling moment for Koloi.
"I'm not just a member of the church, my father was the founder of this church 40 years ago. The work that we do at The Fono in vaccinating everybody else and every other church, I've always had it in my heart that I would hope one day, we'll be here."
Senior church minister Viliami Mapapalangi is on MC duties for the day, his voice booming through the mic and over the sound system, thanking church members as they wave and drive past once their observation period is over.
There are tears as he speaks of the support shown today, and pride when speaking of a senior member of the church who got their first vaccine dose.
"How I'm feeling, I know God is here. It's a great blessing, it's a great privilege for all of us to be here to be support.
"It's very emotional for us, I'm really happy seeing how the Tongan people come to support what the government needs for everyone here. It's a blessing for us."
Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported that 90 per cent of Pacific people have had their first dose and 80 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Fisiinaua Taufa was parked up after getting his second shot. It was not a difficult decision to get vaccinated, he said: "I think it's cool."
Mele Mavae waited in her car after getting her second shot. She said she did it to protect herself and her family.
It was a difficult decision, she said, but she prayed and the church leaders' example helped.
A young Marcellin College student plays rugby league for Māngere East, and says he got vaccinated so he could compete in the U16 Shaun Johnson Shield.
The chief executive of The Fono, Tevita Funaki, said seeing the turnout was heart-warming.
"These are the real hard-to-reach ... and to get such an opportunity is actually quite significant. It sends a strong signal, that it's actually safe, and you get vaccinated to keep you safe, and your family, but also our village as well."
Koloi said there were many factors which had helped those hesitant to get vaccines come forward, including seeing the effects of the virus first-hand, as well as seeing a lot of people they know get vaccinated safely.
But first and foremost he said, it was the church leadership driving this.
"The president himself came out and said that he's been vaccinated and all members should be vaccinated."
Early on, he said some members of the church had been very vocal particularly in using the scripture to dismiss and discredit the work of the vaccinations.
Today, leaders and church members wear shirts with the scripture "Aisea 1: 19-20" and the word "Talangofua" printed in bold.
"When the church leadership decided on a name for the programme, they came up with the name 'Talangofua' which literally means obedience. The verse … talks about being obedient to your leadership."
In the prayer this morning, they emphasised that again.
"We're here in New Zealand as a society, and this society needs us all to be vaccinated and we should be obedient as members of this society."
He said they made it clear that those who would be waving their flags out in the front would be church ministers.
"To make it clear to everybody that we are obedient to the law but first and foremost it's still within our belief and value and within the scripture that we follow."