Auckland Council has pledged $100,000 (New Zealand dollars, $78,300, €62,000) to revive the city’s LGBT pride festival that has been absent for 12 years.
The last Auckland Pride was in 2001, before huge debts halted the festival. The funding from Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (ATEED) will contribute towards a two-week festival and parade on 16 February 2013.
Gay Star News reported in February that Prime Minister John Key told the crowd at the city’s Big Gay Out carnival that plans were afoot to bring Pride back. Big Gay Out will be celebrated in the midst of the festival on Sunday 10 February 2013.
The chair of the Auckland Pride Festival steering committee, Gresham Bradley, said there was encouraging demand to bring the festival back:
‘The support we’ve received from the GLBT community, the wider community, politically from major parties, and from the media has been heart-warming to say the least.’
In response to the announcement a local Auckland councillor questioned why the city’s tax players should fund the celebration.
‘$100,000 is not a huge amount in the council's overall budget. But if it's set to be such a huge economic success why do stretched suburban ratepayers even need to be involved in the first place?’ said Councillor Cameron Brewer, as reported by Gay NZ.
‘Given the strength of the “pink dollar” and the success of the likes of the Gay Business Association, organisers should not have expected ratepayers to fork out particularly given how many other core council business budgets are being cut at the moment. What’s more, if it the event comes under financial pressure in future years, it suddenly becomes the council's problem to fix as Auckland City found out in 2001.’
Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse defended the decision to fund the festival saying: ‘it is an important celebration of our gay community’.
Jennah Wootten at ATEED, the body who awarded the festival $100,000 out of the $339,000 requested, said the contribution is in keeping with their major events strategy.
‘In addition to celebrating Auckland’s diversity, the event will deliver Auckland a boost visitor nights and GDP,’ said Wooten. ‘It is timed for the lead up to Sydney’s Mardi Gras to maximise these opportunities.’
An already sold-out gay cruise ship with 1,800 passengers will depart from Auckland during the festival and make its way to Sydney’s Mardi Gras.
Bradley said the funding is the first time the council has funded an LGBT community event. ‘It gives us the foundation from which we can build a major Festival that will become a long term part of an inclusive Auckland City,’ he said.
Gay Auckland Business Association (GABA) is seeking seven trustees for Auckland Pride Festival.