South Auckland community leaders are rallying to open a dedicated fan zone to help Tongan rugby league fans celebrate safely.

Members of the Pacific community, alongside Tongan church and local business leaders, are due to meet with Rugby League World Cup organisers and the Auckland Council tonight about a plan for a fan zone.

A meeting held yesterday resulted in no set plans for a fan zone.

However, Pacific leaders told the Herald the local community - including the Otahuhu Business Association - is willing to set up an unofficial fan zone in Otahuhu if an official one is not sorted.


Manukau ward councillor Fa'anana Efeso Collins said one of the ideas they were looking at was creating a family-friendly event somewhere in the suburb, which has become a place where fans congregate, to celebrate.

"Everyone's keen because we're wanting to keep the revelry controlled.

"The last thing we need out South is things turning to custard.''

Tongan community leader Melino Maka said the community's large-scale support of their team - Mate Ma'a Tonga - had most likely shocked organisers and officials.

"The organisers should've actually come to us earlier and have a plan with community groups about activities.

"I think the Pacific showed the whole of the world that: 'I'll support the tournament even before it kicks off'.''

Calls for a fan zone came following a number of disorder incidents that led to several arrests in and around South Auckland over the past few weeks.

Maka said tonight's meeting would confirm a location somewhere in the main Otahuhu shopping area that would be shut off for a set period of time for fans to celebrate on Saturday.

The hope was to have a set plan early this week ahead of Tonga's quarterfinal match against Lebanon in Christchurch.

He said there were talks of plans to have a large screen at the site, for people to watch the game. However, that was among things to be finalised tonight.

Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development's Steve Armitage said discussions with the RLWC organising committee and police indicated that fans attending the games and those at organised fan events were exceptionally well-behaved.

"The late-night behaviour in Otahuhu town centre is highly unlikely to be prevented by operating fan zones in the build-up to and during the games.''

He said based on the outcomes of tonight's meeting - including looking at other celebratory options - ATEED would see how it could support those.

Maka said organisers needed to work more closely to those who were in tune with the Tongan and wider Pacific communities.

"They need to attend and listen because we can actually help create a solution to help them. We can be part of the solution.

Ivana Vaea said having a fan zone would be a great thing for the community spirit.
Ivana Vaea said having a fan zone would be a great thing for the community spirit.

"There are a lot of people who will be happy to help, like our own Pacific warden or church security to help police.''

'Fan zone a brilliant idea'

Ivana Vaea admits she knows nothing about rugby league, but has been to every Mate Ma'a Tonga match held in Auckland.

"I lost my voice,'' she laughed.

"I don't understand the game, but it's just supporting the boys because all Tongans support big like that.

"There's no English word for it, but in Tongan we call that mafana. It's like heart-warming. It's a feeling that I believe no other country can have when we have it.''

Vaea, who grew up in the village of Houma but is now living in Auckland, said having a fan zone would be a great thing for the community spirit and would allow people to celebrate in one safe place.

"To be able to have a zone for us to gather at would be much better for us.

"That's the reason why some people have been arrested - it's because it's not the place to go to. They're standing on their cars and of course that's not allowed.

"But if we had a fan zone, we can dance and jump on everything.''