19 Jan 2022

Auckland's Big Gay Out pride event cancelled

2:11 pm on 19 January 2022

One of the largest events during Auckland's pride month has been cancelled.

Festival-goers enjoying music from the main stage at the Big Gay Out.

Festival-goers enjoying music from the main stage at the Big Gay Out. Photo: RNZ / Katie Doyle

With 15,000 - 20,000 people expected to attend this year's Big Gay Out on 13 February, New Zealand Aids Foundation (NZAF) said equity and safety were placed at the heart of the decision.

Last year's event was already underway when new community cases of Covid-19 were announced, leading to a city-wide lockdown at midnight.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff defended his decision at the time to allow the event to continue despite the cases.

NZAF chief executive Jason Myers said the decision to cancel the Big Gay Out was not made lightly and core to this was the safety of the communities and organisations it served.

"It has simply become untenable to reconcile delivery of the event with Aotearoa on the precipice of, what experts predict to be, a very difficult time for New Zealanders and our public health system," Myers said.

"This event attracts families with small children and a concerted effort had been made this year to ensure Māori and Pasifika communities feel this event is their space too. There was little room to justify proceeding when we placed equity at the heart of this decision.

"The team is of course extremely disappointed. The Ending HIV Big Gay Out takes considerable capacity to deliver, with many people involved in putting on an incredible event each year. I acknowledge the disappointment that will be felt by all those involved as well as all those that were planning to attend. I feel this personally."

Auckland Pride Festival supported the decision made to cancel the Big Gay Out and said it was constantly reviewing the status of the festival.

However if there was to be an outbreak of Omicron in the community, the festival would not go ahead.

Auckland Pride executive director Max Tweedie said organisers could not hold the festival safely or responsibly in the event of an outbreak.

Public art activation Te Tīmatanga, which celebrates takatāpui excellence, would go ahead at any level of restriction imposed as a result of Omicron, Tweedie said.

Digital deliveries of Whakamutunga (closing), Tuwheratanga (opening) and public programming events would be on the cards.

This year's Big Gay Out event would have been the 23rd in its history.

The event was last cancelled in 2018 due to extreme weather on the day.