Wallis & Futuna dancers stranded in NZ by Covid-19, face hotel eviction

Wallis-Futuna group
Tahitian Ena Manuireva (blue bula shirt) with three of the Wallis and Futuna dance troupe members visiting AUT's Pacific Media Centre last week. Image: Sri Krishnamurthi/PMC

By Sri Krishnamurthi

A Wallis and Futuna dance troupe of 24 that arrived in New Zealand for the Pasifika Festival earlier this month are in lockdown but have been told they face eviction on Friday from their hotel in central Auckland.

The festival was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ena Manuireva, a doctoral student at Auckland University of Technology’s Te Ara Poutama and one of organisers of the trip, was today anxiously looking for places that could take them.

READ MORE: Pacific coronavirus: Ninth case in New Caledonia

“Their flight was cancelled so they are back to stay in town, they are there at the moment but the director of that place has said they will need to leave on Friday,” Manuireva said.

“They need to vacate their rooms, I don’t know how they can do that, but they ar, and I would have thought they need to stay where they are because of this lockdown.

“So, they could be on the streets, because the director says he needs the rooms for people in Auckland.

“They had the whole top floor in eight different rooms, and they are confined in their rooms,” he said.

Manuireva said he had contacted Immigration and Foreign Affairs imploring them to find a solution.

Cheap motels, no cooking
“There are some motels very cheap, but they don’t have cooking facilities and the group can’t afford to be paying for a very long time,” he said.

They were trying to get Aircalin (New Caledonia) airlines to take them home because that’s where they live.

“The government in New Caledonia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been talking about getting 300 stranded people home,” he said.

“I’m trying my best to get people involved in this and all the people that have suggested to house them or billet them live quite far from Auckland, so I don’t want them to go far from Auckland in case there is a flight,” he said.

“We don’t know about the flight, there was supposed to be this Friday but that has been cancelled.”

They were told when there was a flight, priority would be given to emergency workers.

“They have enough money to last them for a month if we can find them free accommodation,” Manuireva said.

Aircalin suspends all flights
“Aircalin has suspended all the flights, I can’t get through to them, but we have a group of French and New Caledonian people that are trying to repatriate to New Caledonia.”

The group arrived after a year of fundraising to attend Pasifika and were disappointed when it was cancelled but understood why.

  • UPDATE: By this afternoon, they had found a marae to take them in Glen Innes. “It’s not ideal but at least they are altogether,” Manuireva said. Meanwhile, the Tahitian dance troupe that had also come to Auckland for the Pasifika Festival, left without similar problems last week.
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Sri Krishnamurthi was the Pacific Media Centre's 2019-20 Pacific Media Watch freedom project contributing editor. Originally from Fiji, Sri has worked in the media as a journalist and in communications in New Zealand for more than 20 years. Sri is a graduate of the Postgraduate Diploma in Communications (Digital Media) course at AUT. He also has an MBA (Massey University).