Big Gay Out has become a great day out, not just for the LGBT community but for Aucklanders from different communities. The stalls, great food, music and general entertainment provided at the fair makes it a truly fabulous day out for everyone who attends. It is a tribute to the New Zealand Aids Foundation and the many Aucklanders that volunteer that it has become such a successful part of the events calendar in Auckland.
Several people have expressed their desire to build on the success of Big Gay Out. Auckland’s Hero Parade deserves respect. It was successful because it was a large celebration of the LGBT community which regularly drew an audience of more than one hundred thousand people.
Across the Tasman, Sydney Mardi Gras has worked through the financial challenges of developing a new international tourist event and by 2006 Conde Nast named it as one of the world’s top ten costume parades in the world. In 2009 Sydney Mardi Gras produced their largest ever Parade with almost 10,000 taking part. They have shown it is possible to deliver a world class parade down under celebrating the LGBT community.
While the primary goal of such a parade must be to do that, let’s acknowledge that the Mardi Gras has also provided significant economic benefit to some cities. In 2009 research showed Sydney Mardi Gras attracts more than 21,000 tourists to New South Wales and brings in almost $30 million in revenue for the State.
As the MP for Auckland Central I represent a strong LGBT community. Nearly 10 years on from the last Hero Parade, it is time to explore having a Parade again.
One of the advantages of the new Auckland Council is that we have a new Tourism, Events and Economic Development Council Controlled Organisation (CCO) specifically tasked to research events like this for Auckland.
I have written to the CCO and the Mayor asking for their support to assist with some feasibility work for the Parade. I think if Auckland businesses also supported the Parade it could be a great celebration of the LGBT community while providing an economic benefit to Auckland.
I also intend to liaise with Australian politicians and the organisers of Sydney Mardi Gras to explore possible alignment or support. Additionally, I want to know what the Auckland Central electorate thinks about it. I am interested in community engagement as to what the form a Parade and possible festival should take as we want a celebration that is modern and looks to the future.
I have set up a facebook page Auckland Mardi Gras at www.facebook.com to generate feedback. People who want to help out or let me know their views can contact my office on 09 378 2088 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Auckland already has some wonderful community celebrations with the Diwali Festival of Lights, the Chinese Lantern Festival and Pasifika. An Auckland Mardi Gras Parade could be a wonderful addition to New Zealand’s tourism and events calendar.