Auckland Pride ditches annual parade for low-key Pride Walk event

The Auckland Pride Board has ditched its annual Pride Parade plans and replaced the event with a low-key walk across the city.  

The board said last month the annual Pride Parade would still go ahead, after controversy around its decision to ban police from marching in their uniforms. 

It appears the parade has now been replaced with a Pride Walk, set to take place on February 9, starting at Albert Park in Auckland Central.  

The walk is listed among other events by Auckland Pride as part of its 2019 Auckland Pride Festival line-up. Other events include Big Gay Out on February 10 as well as music performances and cultural gatherings throughout the month. 

The controversy around Auckland Pride traces back to a decision by the board in November not allow New Zealand Police to wear uniforms at the 2019 Auckland Pride Parade - an annual march down Ponsonby Rd that was set to take place on 16 February. 

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 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 police would no longer attend the parade.  

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern became the first PM to walk in the Auckland Pride Parade in 2018.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern became the first PM to walk in the Auckland Pride Parade in 2018. Photo credit: Getty

Things went from bad to worse. A community hui was held in November by Auckland Pride to give people the chance to discuss the ban. But an attendee described the event as "incredibly tense" with a physical altercation breaking out

The board's decision angered those who felt police were finally accepting the LGBTQ+ community. But others supported the board's decision, with Emilie Rākete from Prisons Against Aotearoa highlighting police brutality statistics. 

Corporates sponsors and supporters started pulling out after the police uniform ban, including BNZ Bank, SkyCity, Westpac, Vodafone, Fletcher, the New Zealand Defence Force and the Rainbow New Zealand Trust. 

Even Auckland Pride Parade founder Gresham Bradley joined in the debacle. He called for the board to be sacked on The AM Show. But the board eventually survived a no confidence vote - 325 to 273. 

The board maintained at the time that the "complaints about police consistently outnumbered feedback about any other institution or organisation". 

Now it seems the organisation has tried to rebrand Auckland Pride Festival as less reliant on sponsorship and more engaged with the LGBTQ+ community. 

Auckland Pride Festival Chair Cissy Rock said in November the "community as a whole, for a while now, has been saying it's time to get back to having Pride with more of a community focus and wanting to see it more queer and edgy".

It's understood the Auckland Pride Board is waiting for police to approve the final plans for the Pride Walk.