Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has arrived at the Auckland Secondary Schools’ Polyfest for the very first time - and was not shy when called upon to take part in a Samoan siva.
Decked out in an island patterned shirt, Hipkins was welcomed onto the grounds at the Manukau Sports Bowl, in South Auckland, with a mihi whakatau - a traditional Māori welcoming ceremony.
He is joined by other high dignitaries and Pacific and Māori community leaders; including Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni and politicians representing all the political parties.
Former Deputy PM Winston Peters is also among the guests.
It was bucketing with rain earlier this morning - before Hipkins arrived - but the rain has eased back; with Hipkins seemingly bringing the sun with him as he turned up a little behind schedule.
Hipkins was then taken on a brief walkabout through a section of the festival - happily stopping to greet members of the public and posing for photos with youngsters.
When he arrived at the Samoan stage, the crowd erupted in applause when he was introduced to the stage.
“Talofa lava everybody! It’s good to see you,” he called out.
He acknowledged the fact that this was the first year back for the Polyfest, after various disruptions, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, forced the festival to be called off or go online last year.
He said it was great to see so much energy among young people performing and showing off their pride in their culture and identity.
Hipkins well received by Polyfest crowds
Hipkins also pointed to the country’s first Pasifika Deputy Prime Minister in Carmel Sepuloni. Also on stage was the new Minister for Pacific Peoples, Mana MP Barbara Edmonds.
As Hipkins was due to leave the stage, MC Lemoa Henry Fesulua’i, a respected Samoan language tutor, stopped him and announced that a siva (dance) was about to take place in honour of them - much to the crowd’s delight.
As Hipkins - draped in flower lei necklaces - attempts to dance quietly in the background, the MC takes his arm and encourages him to the front and centre of the stage, as his fellow politicians dance around him.
Students from the school that had just finished performing, Papatoetoe High, were called on to back Hipkins and his team, as he graciously accepted the invitation - clapping and swaying from side to side, as students sang and danced behind him.
Afterwards, while speaking to media, he was asked by the Herald to give a “cheehoo!” - a celebratory cry used in Samoa during various occasions.
At first, Hipkins seemed hesitant to try, saying he did not want to “mess it up”. But when Sepuloni jumped in to say they would all do it, he happily joined his fellow Labour MPs to sing out a loud group “cheehoo!”
Fine weather to wrap up Polyfest 2023
Today is day three of this year’s 48th ASB Polyfest, which opened up with its increasingly popular Diversity stage on Wednesday.
The Pacific Island stages - Samoan, Tongan, Cook Island and Niuean - open up today and tomorrow; bringing more high school groups to the spotlight and more competition.
The early morning rain has not deterred family, friends and members of the public who have turned out in droves to support thousands of secondary schools from around Auckland.
With nothing but sunshine forecast for tomorrow’s weather, the final day of this year’s Polyfest is expected to bring in the most crowds, as the remaining school groups take to the various stages to wrap up a successful festival.
- additional reporting: Vaimoana Mase