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Thursday, February 10, 2011

In New Zealand, Mardi Gras proposal gathers momentum

A push to bring a lgbt parade or festival to Auckland is quickly gaining speed, with Mayor Len Brown agreeing the idea has merit and asking for a feasibility study to be carried out.

Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye led the charge on the project in a column written for this week. She then wrote to Brown asking for action.
Brown today stated the idea fits well with his vision of Auckland as an events capital and an attractive tourist destination. He has asked for a feasibility assessment from the council organisation responsible for Tourism, Events and Economic Development.
The organisation has agreed to work with the Mayor, Kaye and interested stakeholders to explore the idea of an Auckland Gay Mardi Gras, and undertake a feasibility study as requested by the mayor.
Kaye is delighted: "I want to congratulate the mayor who is demonstrating a real commitment to investigate ideas that support both the lgbt community and that may support improving economic development in Auckland. The success of any future initiative will depend on it being supported by the wider community and it is great to see support across the political spectrum for this.
The National MP says a number of people and groups have contacted her office, supportive of taking the idea further. She intends to ensure they are linked in to the process of engagement for the feasibility study.
"I want to stress that I am not fixed on what the final form of larger Mardi Gras type celebration may be. It could be a parade, it could be a festival, it could be both. That must be decided after extensive community engagement and needs to come from the LGBT community."
The initiative has tentative support from Kaye's Auckland Central rival, Labour MP Jacinda Ardern, who says she is all for anything which showcases the vibrant, diverse and fantastic place that Auckland City is - and K' Rd specifically is.
"At the same time I also want to make sure that we don't lose sight of all of the other issues that need to be progressed on behalf of the lgbt community. So, great to have some celebration and if something like this is good for the economy – fantastic. But there are lots of other bits and pieces we need to keep plugging away on with just as much energy, if not more."
Ardern says lessons need to be learned from the past, "we need put our money where our mouth is, and not allow community groups to be left carrying the can, when it's something that we all benefit from."
OUTLine General Manager Vaughan Meneses says it's extremely encouraging that the council is recognising the importance of pride events for the gay community in New Zealand. "We would hope to see that a feasibility study would not only look at a parade, but also look at other pride events in a festival arrangement - and would be widely consultative with the rainbow community."
Gay Auckland Business Association (GABA) President Glenn Sims says the Association is delighted Brown has put his support behind a feasibility study. He says in principle, GABA would be supportive of such an initiative from both an economic and community perspective.
"However, finding money to fund Mardi Gras exclusively from within the lgbt community could prove extremely difficult, so we would caution that any assessment takes into account that the event must be properly resourced and economically sustainable," Sims says. "It should also be run with a focus on lgbt for lgbt and we'd expect any proposal for Mardi Gras to take a holistic approach and be part of a broader arts and cultural festival.
"There are countless young people in New Zealand that have never had the opportunity to take part in such a public celebration of visibility, pride and diversity; and worldwide examples evidence such festivals becoming a focus for on-going community engagement.
Sims says it's essential that any event needs to be forward-looking and forward thinking, rather than being entrenched in the past.
"A Mardi Gras that attempts to be a straight recreation of Hero would bring with it a multitude of problems and could well doom it to failure. It's vital that any new festival learns from the past but has a new direction, raison-d'ĂȘtre and politic upon which it can grow and evolve."
The feasibility study will consider the level of support from the community as well as the economic impact for Auckland.
The idea will also be considered in relation to the Council events strategy currently being prepared to position Auckland as an events capital and an even more attractive visitor destination.


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