24 Feb 2020

Group splinters from Wellington pride parade

4:03 pm on 24 February 2020

A group of rainbow organisations have announced they will not be participating in the March Wellington International Pride Parade this year, over concerns around representation.

Wellington Pride Parade

The 2018 Wellington International Pride Parade. Photo: RNZ/ Reesh Lyon

In a letter to the parade's organisers, the collection of charities, small businesses and individuals, said the parade was not connected with rainbow people, nor the organisations working with rainbow people.

One of the charities involved with the group is Gender Minorities Aotearoa.

"It's been three years of trying to get them to consult the community," said National Coordinator Ahi Wi-Hongi.

Ahi Wi-Hangi, National Coordinator of Gender Minorities Aotearoa

Ahi Wi-Hongi, National Coordinator of Gender Minorities Aotearoa. Photo: RNZ

"Because our organisations serve quite a diverse range of people, we hear feedback from all over the community, and what people have wanted the whole time is just for the International Pride Parade to communicate, to hear what's important to them."

They said that because there hasn't been a dialogue between the rainbow community and the parade's organisers - the event itself doesn't feel for them.

"It seems to us that it's focussed a lot on international tourism rather than on the rainbow community here, which is seen in their name: the International Pride Parade," they said.

Richard Tait, at the unveiling of Wellington’s Pride Bus last week.

Richard Tait, at the unveiling of Wellington's Pride Bus last week. Photo: Jackie Cooper

Richard Tait, the co-chair of the parade disagreed with that. He said last year a survey was held after the event, and organisers have acted on the feedback received.

"We have always said we're prepared to talk to people," he said.

"We've been very open about being prepared to talk to people. Last year we put an online survey out, and yeah, we had criticism.

"People didn't like certain parts of it. People didn't like the tank. People felt they got to the end of the parade, and felt the waterfront was a bit flat and didn't have a final ending. So we've addressed those."

A Defence Force vehicle in this year's Wellington Pride Parade

Last year's Wellington Pride Parade. Photo: Photo credit: NZ Defence Force

Too corporate, not enough community

A significant aspect of the affiliation's concern is around the prevalence of corporate floats - last year's parade had 37 participants, but the complainants say only 10 of those were rainbow community entries.

Owner of Cuba Street's rainbow venue, the Ivy Bar, Steven Mawhinney - also part of the affiliation - explained why that's a problem.

"We just need to get the whole community represented, not just banks and corporates, which have a place, because they've got lots of diverse people within their community.

"But they're not the ones doing the work on the ground every single day, looking after and protecting our community."

Steven Mawhinney, owner of Wellington rainbow bar, The Ivy Bar.

Steven Mawhinney, owner of Wellington rainbow bar, The Ivy Bar. Photo: Supplied

Brock Stobbs from UniQ at Te Herenga Waka/Victoria University, said the parade in previous years has been difficult for rainbow students.

"A lot of them come from families and their communities and their schools, where they don't really have the opportunity to explore and embrace their identities, so coming to university is their first chance to do that.

"So they see what the parade in pride is about, but they didn't feel comfortable with that. They didn't feel like it was necessarily a safe and welcoming opportunity for them."

Brock Stobbs, Communications Manager for UniQ at Te Herenga Waka/Victoria University of Wellington.

Brock Stobbs, Communications Manager for UniQ at Te Herenga Waka/Victoria University of Wellington. Photo: RNZ

The Wellington pride parade is in its third year and is planned for 7 March this year. It was set up in 2017, and the first parade was held in 2018.

Brock Stobbs said the group are keen to stress they fully support the parade's existence.

"Having a pride parade in Wellington is quite necessary. There's definitely no attempt, no desire to take it over, or cancel it.

"We do want a pride parade to exist, we just want it to be something that is more inclusive and for the people."

Ahi Wi-hongi says if communities were included in the conversation, the parade would benefit.

"We imagine that if the community is allowed by the international parade committee to have meaningful input, then it would change a lot.

"So we can see it being more diverse, more focussed on what the community needs and wants."

Is a hui in April the answer?

As a result of the disagreement between parade organisers and the group who have complained, advocacy group Rainbow Wellington has intervened to act as an intermediary.

They proposed a hui should take place in April, to kickstart meaningful discussions between the two sides.

"We welcome that opportunity, because we believe that our community shouldn't be fighting," said the parade's Richard Tait.

"There's going to be disagreements always, like all whānau, there will be disagreements and people are entitled to their opinions. But we would like to have that in a safe manner."

Members of the group who would like change have expressed their support for a public hui, saying it would be a good first step.

"That is a brilliant first step in the process," said Steven Mawhinney. "Sitting down with the community, and talking with us is a great first step.

"The second step is listening and finding ways forward to work together where both parties can have what they want, and work together."

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