Speaking exclusively to express, the former Auckland Pride Parade Registrations Coordinator gives his own account of the events that led to his resignation in the lead up to 2016’s parade as well as his personal reasons for opposing police participation.
Baz Bloomfield was a volunteer for the Auckland Pride Festival since its conception in 2013 and spent the last two years being the volunteer Registration Coordinator.
Bloomfield says he worked closely with the board and former executive officer Linda Heavey in a role that was responsible for “sending and receiving invoices related to the parade participants and to monitor payments on a daily basis.”
Bloomfield adds that he “would also travel outside of Auckland and visit parade participants who could not attend health & safety meetings.”
For the first three festivals, Bloomfield says he enjoyed his time working with the 2013 Parade director Jonothan Smith and 2014 & 15 director Richard Taki.
Bloomfield says the first three parades ran smoothly, with tensions arising with the appointment of Linda Heavey to the role of executive officer in November 2014. Immediately, the appointment would lead to the resignation of 2013/14 festival director, Julian Cook.
Bloomfield says Heavey took a “her way or the highway” approach to the running of the festival and says “it was as if people who belonged to the rainbow community were not allowed a voice but the only voice that mattered belonged to board members of the Auckland Pride Festival”
Bloomfield wasn’t the only person who had issues. The executive officer’s management approach also led to conflict between the executive officer and the parade director Richard Taki, resulting in his eventual departure, something Bloomfield says he tried to avoid. “It was obvious that there was an irreparable rift between the Parade Director and the Executive Officer of Pride.” Bloomfield’s account has been reiterated from another source close to the board who said there was a breakdown in the relationship between Taki and Heavey which would prove fatal for both.
“Over a period of approximately seven months after the 2015 Pride Parade had finished I tried to broker an element of calm between the Executive Officer and the Parade Director but alas the Executive Officer was adamant that she would not make any deals with the Parade Director and that she was not accountable to anyone except Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development who were the main funders of the Pride Parade.” Linda Heavey has been contacted to make a comment on these accusations but has not yet responded.
Before deciding to depart, Richard Taki made a list of 29 recommendations on the parade to the Executive Officer and Auckland Pride board. As it was earlier reported on gayexpress.co.nz, those recomendations centred around the health and safety concerns Taki had. According to Bloomfield “the Executive Officer was not prepared have a conversation with Parade Director about his concerns.”
With the recommendations not acknowledged, Taki declined to return as Parade Director in 2016.
Heavey and Bloomfield’s resignations would follow soon afterward.
Auckland Pride’s 2015 parade was in some way overshadowed by the ‘No Pride in Prisons’ protest against the participation of the New Zealand Corrections Department.
Bloomfield says that he shared the concerns of the group following an altercaion in which he says he was indecently assaulted by a heterosexual woman. The police report seen by express stated that the woman in question would be formally warned, but not charged over the assault, a decision which angered Bloomfield who says that he felt his complaint was ignored on the basis of his sexuality.
Bloomfield said that he wished to go public with his own story of indecent assault, but says that he was told his position with Pride would be jeopardised if he did so.
Changing tack, Bloomfield then “suggested to the Executive Officer that ‘Pride’ question the discriminatory policies of the Police considering that I belonged to the rainbow community.”
The suggestion was not welcomed according to Bloomfield. “Her response to that was that I needed to have a big think about what I was doing and that I would need to make a choice whether not I wanted to stay on with ‘Pride’ being the Registrations Coordinator” Bloomfield says. Heavey has not returned calls for comment on Bloomfield’s claim.
Linda Heavey would subsequently resign from her position as Executive Officer in mid October, with an official press release citing “personal reasons” for the decision. Speaking off the record, one source close to the running of pride had confirmed that the conflict had indeed “taken its toll” on all involved.
November saw the appointment of Nick Davion as new parade director. An opportunity many of those closely involved in pride as the possibility for the beginning of something new, given the previous tensions between Richard Taki and Linda Heavey.
Bloomfield saw it as an opportunity to once again note his concerns around the involvement of Corrections in the parade; something he says was dismissed, being told to focus simply on taking registrations.
“I met with the new Pride Parade Director who informed me that my job was to take registrations and not make comment to board members; that he did not appreciate me sharing information with the board member; that I was using my position as the Parade Coordinator and it would be seen as compromising my position and that I would not be able to carry on as the Registrations Coordinator.” Bloomfield says.
Bloomfield then turned his attention to attempting to discuss with Davion, (who was new to New Zealand and the festival) other aspects of the parade such as start time and which direction down Ponsonby Road the parade would take.
The first meeting would go well, before the relationship turned sour a week later.
“About a week after I met with the new Director of the Pride Parade. I presented him with x2 recommendations that I wanted him to pass on to the board. The first recommendation related to the inclusion of the New Zealand Police and the Department of Corrections. The second recommendation was on behalf of Kevin Dunseath (Miss Ribena) and me that related to the new [proposed] start time of 5pm and the direction of the 2016 Pride Parade without any consultation with the Rainbow community.” Bloomfield says.
According to Bloomfield “The new Parade director informed me he would not be passing on the recommendations to the board; that the board will allow the New Zealand Police and Corrections into the 2016 parade, that the board had been informed by him of the new start time for the 2016 parade being 5pm (the start time was later amended to 6pm) and would start at the 3 lamps end of Ponsonby Road and that no changes to that were going to happen. I tried to explain that the community had worked very hard to work towards an evening parade and that historically in Auckland we have enjoyed and expected evening parades.”
The discussion with Davion resulted in Bloomfield feeling that his position was untenable and that he had no choice but to resign.
Auckland Pride declined to respond to the specific allegations made by Bloomfield which express put to the co chairs, instead releasing a statement by new parade director Nick Davion saying “Baz has been a great contributor to the development of the Pride Parade and a great help to me as a parade producer. He has enormous energy and enthusiasm for issues facing the Rainbow community and I look forward to working with him in some other capacity.”
express has approached Linda Heavey and Auckland Pride for further comment, and will update this story should that arrive. Any correspondence regarding the story can be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org