Marcellin College

Auckland Polynesian Festival

The Event Director of the Festival.

Interview with Chris Seu Seu, the organiser of the Polynesian Festival in 2004

We interviewed Chris to find out more about how the Festival is organised.

How did you become involved with the Festival?

The Company I work for ‘SMC Ltd’ was contracted to run the Festival by the Auckland Secondary School Principals Association.

What is your job at the Festival and what does it involve?

I am the event director. I am responsible for overseeing all areas of the festival from school entires, contracting companies to erect stages, hunting for sponsorship etc.

How many years have you been organising the Festival?

Four years

What do you like most about the job?

Seeing it all come together and the students enjoying themselves.

What is the hardest part of organising the Festival

Its when schools don’t receive newsletters and panic because they don’t know what’s going on.

What are your main goals when you run this extraordinary event? Have these goals changed over time?

Three years ago the main goal was to run a safe event that did not lose money. This has changed as the festival has become better known and we have been more successful at attracting sponsorship. Goals for the future include increasing attractiveness of the stages and surroundings, improving the quality of the stage surfaces, and the stage size.

How does the Polynesian festival contribute to the learning of Polynesian teenagers?

I believe the Festival is an event which not only makes students proud of their heritage but also teaches students teamwork and discipline and involves performing in front of large crowds.

Who helps you to organise the festival and what are their jobs?

The people who work for me are

  • The site manager who organises the contractors setting up the infrastructure.

  • The stallholders Manager who liases with the stallholders allocating them sites and setting up meetings where all the requirements are explained to them.

  • The schools and sponsors liaison manager who communicates with schools and collects their entries.

  • The sponsorship team: Their job is to attract sponsors.

  • The finance manager who organises payments, accounts etc.

  • The Manukau City Council events facilitator who helps to liase with the different council departments including parks, food safety, and resource consent, Transit NZ events team, MCC marketing, MCC civic events team, the mayors PA etc.

How do you keep in touch with all the different groups who perform at the Festival?

In most cases the groups who are contacted through a single “Cultural Group co-ordinator at each school". These co-ordinators all the updates on the festival by fax or email.

How do you raise the money for the Festival, and if you make a profit, how is the money used?

Approximately one third of the money comes from fees such as gate entry fees, stallholder fees, and group entry fees. The other two thirds comes from sponsorship and grants. If there is a profit it has traditionally been kept by the host school. Host school are now being encouraged to leave some funds with the festival as a reserve for the years when the festival does not make a profit.

How are the judges selected for judging the performances from each culture?

Each stage has its own method of selecting judges. Some vote on judges. One has a trust which selects judges; others have stage co-ordinators which appoint. All stages do have meetings where input into the processes such as the selection of judges can be discussed.

How do you keep the environment safe? Is it your job to organise security and what is involved in the task?

We organise security. Each year there are 30+ paid security guards, 35+ Maori wardens and 50+ police that are on the site at any one time. We meet with all three groups and brief them as to plans and come up with a security plan for the year.

How do you allocate for stallholders to sell their goods?

We draw up a site for the festival. Application forms with details on price, a map etc are sent to all the stallholders on our database, as we also send this information to schools and stallholders that may have missed out on Pacifica. There is different pricing for different stallholders depending on whether they are a community group, professional caterers etc.

The festival is already changing, as there are now groups from Asia as well as the Pacific performing. Do you think the name should be changed to reflect this?

At present 145 of the 170 groups are from Maori or PI cultures. While the decision has been made so that all students can feel part of this event, it is still in essence a Maori and PI Festival. Possibly in the future, as the percentage of Non-Maori and PI groups increases, the name may be looked at.

How do you see the Future of the Festival?

Getting bigger and bigger each year, continuing to attract a larger audience each year and a wider audience with more non-PI and Maori public attending and eventually more visitors from overseas.