Hastings Library Rainbow Storytime event cancelled over disinformation, public safety concerns

Fears over unsafety for attendees has sparked the planned events to be shut down.
Fears over unsafety for attendees has sparked the planned events to be shut down. Photo credit: Hastings District Council

Hastings District Council has cancelled its Rainbow Storytime and Living Library events over public safety fears for attendees. 

It's now the second New Zealand council to cancel the events, including performances from drag queens Erica and CoCo Flash, who read books aloud to children.

The cancellation follows Destiny Church Pastor Brian Tamaki vowing to shut down the events, claiming they were "inappropriate as they sexualise our Kiwi children." 

Another scheduled performance at the Rotorua Library last week was also cancelled, with Rotorua Lakes Council expressing safety and disinformation concerns. 

"Disinformation being spread about an upcoming library programme has forced Hastings District Council to cancel a children's storytime event, and a teen event, due to concerns the young attendees cannot be kept safe," the council said in a statement. 

Shows scheduled at the library for Wednesday, March 27, would have seen the two drag performers read stories about inclusivity and acceptance to children. 

Hastings Library has previously hosted the events in 2020 and 2022, which they say were popular among attendees. 

"There is no sexual content in these programmes, they are age-appropriate, and designed to be entertaining and fun," the statement read. 

"While the programmes have run in previous years with no issues, this year Destiny Church has led a campaign of disinformation about the programmes, and Council is concerned about public safety in light of planned protests." 

The council, councillors and library staff have received messages claiming the events are a "platform for sexual grooming of young people". 

"As time has gone on these messages have in some instances been intimidating and threatening, including death threats to the performers." 

 Hastings Council said through a risk assessment and contact with police, they decided to cancel the event due to being unable to control attendees "and their potential behaviour" 

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said she was deeply disappointed to be forced into the position of cancelling the event. 

"We had every intention of standing up to this intimidation and going ahead, but unfortunately the potential for there to be possibly aggressive protests outside the library is something we can't subject our children and the rest of the community to," she said. 

"We have a responsibility to keep people safe at our facilities, and the escalation of hateful and bigoted rhetoric around this event, coupled with the huge costs and the strain on resources to bring in security to ensure people's safety, means we are in a position this year that we can't guarantee attendees', staff and the performers' safety." 

Councillor Wendy Schollum described Hasting's as an "inclusive community where everyone, no matter their lifestyle or life choices can feel safe and able to express their individuality without fear". 

"Rainbow reading time is about sharing messages of acceptance, inclusion, tolerance and self-belief,"  Schollum shared in a video on the Hastings District Council Facebook page. 

She said the drag queens read from books such as 'Giraffes Can't Dance' and 'The Book With No Pictures'. 

"These are all publicly accessible children's stories found in children's homes." 

"To have such a small segment of our community twist the intention of this event and pedal another agenda, and shut it down, is incredibly sickening." 

"Rest assured, we will host events like these again in the future," she said. 

"We will do it brightly, loudly and glamorously."