New Zealand Defence Force opts out of Auckland Pride Parade after police debacle

The New Zealand Defence Force is opting out of next year's Auckland Pride Parade after the festival board banned uniformed police officers from participating.

"Like Defence, Police are on their own journey and are fully committed to inclusive diversity," Squadron leader Stu Pearce told Stuff.

The Auckland Pride Board says New Zealand Police do not have the degree of awareness the LGBT community needs to feel safe at the event.

But a Defence Force spokesperson says it does not feel comfortable joining in an event that excludes other uniformed services. The NDZF will instead participate in other pride events around the country, such as the Wellington International Pride Parade.

It comes after a chaotic community hui held by the Auckland Pride Festival on Sunday, where tensions rose over the decision to ban police from wearing their uniforms in the 2019 parade down Ponsonby Rd.

The hui, hosted by Auckland Pride Festival on Sunday night at the Grey Lynn Community Centre, was described beforehand as a "safe space for all voices to be heard". But attendees described the event on social media as "incredibly tense".

An attendee, who wants to remain anonymous, says a scrap at the event was triggered by police brutality figures. The witness said the fight - involving People Against Prisons spokesperson Emilie Rākete - was "disgusting" and not a good look for the LGBT community.

The controversy traces back to a decision by the Auckland Pride Board two weeks ago to not allow New Zealand Police to wear their uniforms at the 2019 Auckland Pride Parade - an annual march down Ponsonby Rd set to take place on February 16 next year.

"This decision has been made following a series of community feedback sessions, including the 2018 AGM and Community Hui series held in venues across Auckland," a statement by the board said on 9 November.

New Zealand Police Senior District Liaison Officer Tracy Phillips said police officers were extremely disappointed by the board's decision, telling Newshub at the time if police are not welcome in uniform, then "we're not going to force ourselves on anybody".

The Pride Festival board told police officers they must wear T-shirts instead of their uniforms, which is when Ms Phillips says she made the call that the New Zealand Police will no longer attend the parade.