Yesterday it was Westpac, today it’s Vodafone – as supporters flee the Auckland Pride Parade; Michael Stevens surveys the damage and explains why the Pride Board have gotten this so wrong.

Sometimes people talk about the Rainbow Community as if we are one, but the current anger and distress at the Pride Board’s decisions around police participation in the parade show just how false that assumption is.

People in the various queer communities that Pride tries to cover come from every part of wider New Zealand society.  We come from the richest, the poorest and the middle. We are Māori, Pakeha, Korean, Samoan, and nearly every other ethnicity there is. Politically we are left-wing, we are right-wing, we are centrist. We are atheists, we are Muslims, we are Christians, Hindus and Buddhists and agnostics.


Some are wealthy older Pakeha lesbians from Remuera, some are young fa’afafine struggling to get by in Manukau, some are young Chinese business-people who have come here because it’s an open and free society and they just want to get ahead and live openly with their partner, some are gay male beer-drinking Tainui rugby-loving boofheads, some are trans-women pursuing their careers, some are HIV+ gay men who have already been through hell, and some are members of the New Zealand Police Force, and some have had bad experiences with the Police, while others have had very positive ones. An awful lot of us actually lead quiet and ordinary lives in the suburbs.

The sheer variety of what is covered by that term “Rainbow” shows a real part of the problem. Pride has to be Pride for all of these and more, and that’s a hell of a task to ask for a community festival largely run by volunteers.

Pride needs to be able to cover and include all of these and more, or it fails.

And currently, Auckland Pride is failing.

In giving in to the demands of the tiny group that runs PAPA (People Against Prisons Aotearoa) it is capitulating to a group that is not explicitly linked to our communities, and a group that is pursuing goals that very few in our community agree with. In short, Auckland Pride has been hijacked by a group to drive a political agenda that is not related to Pride.

The constitution for Auckland Pride states as the first of its “Charitable Purposes” the following:

5.1 (a) Support the Rainbow communities: provide members of the Rainbow communities with the opportunity to participate in events and activities in an environment which recognises their particular needs, in particular by providing the opportunity for members of the Rainbow communities to celebrate and be proud of who they are in an open and inclusive environment:

The actions taken by the Board in the last few weeks run directly against this constitutional requirement. They have managed to sow division, fear and anger among the very groups the constitution demands they support and include. Most of us are not feeling like celebrating and are not proud. The fact the Chair said she was guided by her principles, which seem to go against the constitution, should be of concern. The Board must act in accordance with the constitution, but they seem to have forgotten its existence.

We are an incredibly diverse group of people, and trying to keep every one of us happy is pretty close to an impossible task. But when you manage to piss off such a broad section of people who don’t normally agree, it should give you pause, it should make you stop and reconsider the wisdom, and also the legality of your decisions.

Pride needs to be able to give people the opportunity to protest if they want to, but it has no right to tell the rest of us to support any particular cause or group. Protest, and invite people in to listen to your arguments, but don’t hijack the event from the rest. Pride also needs to be able to give people the room to celebrate, to dance, to have fun, to talk, to be ourselves and to be visible.

It’s probably too late to save the Parade for 2019, and the festival will likely be a shabbier affair if sponsors continue to pull out, but hopefully future Boards will be better skilled to find ways that genuinely meet the aims of the Pride Festival’s constitution and purpose, and give us all a reason to participate and to celebrate.