The Pasifika Festival may be later than usual this year, but organisers have big plans for the new time slot, in the hopes of attracting even bigger crowds.

Next weekend's event will mark the 26th year since it started at Western Springs in 1992.

Like always, Pacific culture will be highlighted significantly in all aspects - through traditional dance, food, arts and crafts - as well as other customs and ways of life, including tatau (tattooing), carving and traditional cooking practices such as those seen in a hangi, umu (Samoan) or lovo (Fijian).

For the first time in its history, the festival opens a week after the Auckland secondary schools' ASB Polyfest - which took place this week in Manukau when more than 10,000 students performed over four days.

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Pasifika's new project manager, Leisa Siteine, said the change was discussed and ultimately made in a move that would potentially bring in even more young people, particularly those participating at the Polyfest.

"A lot of the time, lots of those youth can't come to the festival because they're busy preparing for Polyfest.

"We thought it could be great to get the winners from some of the schools to perform at Pasifika after their performances there.

"They wouldn't be as pressured because it's not a competition and it would give them a chance to show off their performances again to more of the community.''

The Pasifika Festival is back for another year, celebrating its 26th birthday. Photo / Gareth Cooke Subzero Images
The Pasifika Festival is back for another year, celebrating its 26th birthday. Photo / Gareth Cooke Subzero Images

Siteine's involvement comes as Auckland Council's Ateed - Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development group - takes the reins back to deliver the festival after three years' management by Orange Productions.

In another change, stalls will open an hour earlier, at 9am, after members of the public suggested many were having to wait to get to the food and craft stalls on the Saturday and Sunday.

A TASTE OF THE PASIFIKA

Once again, those wanting a taste of Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia can visit them all in the one go thanks to 11 island villages offering unique foods, performances and arts.

The villages are: Fiji, Aotearoa, Kiribati, Hawaii, Niue, Samoa, Tahiti, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and the Cook Islands.

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Each has its own drawcard events and activities.

Highlights include the renowned Suluape family live tattooing at the Samoan village, the re-enactment of a traditional marriage in Tuvalu, lovo cooking in Fiji, making flower lei in Hawaii and the traditional weaving at the Niuean and Kiribati hubs.

Veteran broadcaster Bernard Tairea is the co-ordinator for the Cook Islands village - a role he has had for the past 15 years.

There would be tivaevae quilt making, traditional tie-dye demonstrations, drumming and lots of ura dancing, he promised.

"We have 21 dance groups this year, 15 bands, five local solo artists, beauty queens from the Cook Islands and the South Pacific and a band coming in from Rarotonga.

"The festival is very popular and it is growing. I'm excited - especially doing things for my village again this year.''

SUPPORT A PACIFIC BUSINESS:

As well as the much-loved food and crafts stalls, the Pacific's business sector is also getting its own area for the first time; displaying popular products from the region.

The Pasifika Business Market will have 40 stalls from islands-based companies linked to the Pacific Trade and Invest's Path to Market programme, which pitches products for the market in New Zealand.

Items up for grabs include clothing, handicrafts, coconut oils and skincare products, frozen seaweed from Tonga, coffee from Vanuatu and organic skincare ranges from the Cook Islands and Samoa.

NEED TO KNOW:

WHEN

: Saturday, March 24-Sunday, March 25, 9am-5pm.

WHERE

: Western Springs Park, Auckland.

WHAT

: Food and crafts from: Aotearoa, Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, Niue, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Fiji, Cook Islands, Tahiti and Kiribati.

TIPS

: Take public transport and don't forget a hat, water bottle, sunscreen and good walking shoes.