Organisers have bowed to public pressure and cancelled this year's Polyfest, which was due to start in Auckland on Wednesday.

Polyfest acting chairman Greg Pierce said the four-day event was cancelled following meetings with the Auckland Regional Public Health Service.

"The announcement from the Prime Minister on Saturday regarding Covid-19 stated that 'in order to limit the risk of community outbreak when people are in close proximity to each other we will also be announcing further guidelines on mass gatherings'," he said.

"As requested in the Prime Minister's announcement, the Polyfest Trust, who are responsible for the ASB Polyfest, held a meeting with the Auckland Regional Public Health Service, and representatives from the Auckland DHB, Counties-Manukau DHB, and the Ministry of Education.


"The Auckland Regional Public Health Service said in the meeting that the wisest choice would be to cancel Polyfest."

'Polyfest must be cancelled': Auckland Mayor Phil Goff tells organisers to call off four-day event over coronavirus fears
Organisers cancel Auckland's Polyfest amid coronavirus concerns
Coronavirus in NZ: People who refuse to self-isolate could be fined - health chief
Coronavirus cancellations: NZ Festival of the Arts, Warbirds over Wanaka and school camps all affected

Polygest is the country's largest schools cultural event, with almost 10,000 performers every year.

Pierce said the health service considered that 110,000 people usually attended from around New Zealand, with close personal contact due to the size of the crowd and the activities that occur at Polyfest.

"Even though people attending Polyfest buy a ticket we would see that this is like a non-ticketed event in that from a public health perspective we would be unable to identify who was in a certain location at a particular time," the service said.

"This would mean if there was a confirmed person who had Covid-19 who had attended Polyfest it would not be possible to contact trace people who were near the case at Polyfest."

From an Auckland community perspective, the health service was concerned to avoid Covid-19 taking a 'hold' in the Auckland population and across the country.

"The Government is also concerned with keeping COVID-19 out of the Pacific Islands, and we know that many Auckland families have frequent contact with visitors and family from the Pacific, or travel to and from the Pacific," the service said.


"For these reasons, whilst we recognise the significant impact and disruption with a late-notice cancellation, we think this decision would be best in the public health interest."

The Counties Manukau DHB endorsed the statement from the Auckland Regional Public Health Service, as the local public health provider of healthcare services for the Counties Manukau District.

Pierce said the trust was "mindful of the disappointment of school groups who did not get to perform at the 2020 ASB Polyfest, but the health of all students and stakeholders is paramount".

"We are currently looking at alternative options for assessing students performances, and will communicate this with schools once a decision has been reached."

ASB head of community and sponsorship Mark Graham says, as naming sponsor of the event, ASB fully supports the decision.

"We have proudly sponsored ASB Polyfest for 35 years, and have a lot of respect for how hard the students and their families, teachers, stage co-ordinators and even"We have proudly sponsored ASB Polyfest for 35 years, and have a lot of respect for how hard the students and their families, teachers, stage co-ordinators and event crew will have worked in preparation for this year's event, however in light of the advice provided, we fully support the Polyfest Trust Board's decision to cancel the event."

With regard to NCEA credits which students could have earned at the 2020 ASB Polyfest, NZQA has information and support available for schools who may need guidance regarding the collection of relevant assessment evidence and providing students with other assessment opportunities, following the cancellation of the 2020 Pasifika Festival and ASB Polyfest.

* Schools can contact the NZQA Call Centre on 0800 697 296 if they need any further information.