PRIDE, INC: A Summary of the Controversy and Why It Matters

This week GayNZ are publishing exposés about Auckland Pride Festival Incorporated (Pride Inc) and its organisation, especially in relation to the events of Pride 2015. I highly recommend going to read them (here and here).

Pride Inc. began as a charity in mid 2012, when three public meetings organised by GABA were held. The meetings showed a community consensus for some kind of Pride parade or festival, and a charitable trust was started. The trust’s objectives included to “foster an environment… for all members of the Rainbow Community to celebrate its sexual orientation and gender idenitity” and “to embrace the principles of Te Tirititi O Waitangi” (bolding mine). The principles included respecting “the diversity of the Rainbow Community of New Zealand/Aotearoa; respect the bicultural heritage of New Zealand/Aotearoa; respect the diversity of cultures in New Zealand/Aotearoa” (again, emphasis mine). The principles also included a line about working to reduce discrimination based on sexual orientation, but no other axes of oppression. The original trust board was to have between 3 and 7 members with the power to appoint replacements for themselves. It could also “from time to time, have regard to the desirability of at least one of the trustees being a member or representative of a particular sector or interest group or within the Rainbow Community… or tangata whenua” (emphasis mine).

Right after Pride 2014, this was all scrapped. Auckland Pride Fest Trust became Auckland Pride Festival Incorporated, and their principles did not include the Treaty obligations, did not include the lines about diversity, bicultural heritage, diversity of cultures, or the board representation for interest groups and tangata whenua.

Pride Inc was no longer a charity. It was this governing board that invited Corrections officers and police to Pride 2015; it was this governing board that is responsible for Emmy’s broken arm.

The new Pride Inc could and did fill its board membership solely on its own without public applications. The new Pride Inc has so many problems with accountability and transparency that its own members have resigned – one, Lexie Matheson, calling the board dysfunctional, noting that she was uneasy with the lack of transparency, and suggesting that two other members, Megan Cunningham-Adams and Daniel Mussett, were dishonest in Pride Inc’s public statement about the resignation of central organiser Julian Cook.

Mussett, in an interview with GayNZ, said: “I think sometimes people forget that … we’re volunteers, so please don’t judge us too harshly. It’s actually really quite hard when you’re a volunteer to be told that you suck, when actually you’re giving up a hell of a lot of your spare time. We really are doing the best we can, with very limited resources.”

Pride Inc’s board changed their mind about speaking to GayNZ about Matheson’s resignation, claiming they’d rather Pride 2015 speak for itself – and it did.