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Sympathy for Cook from ex Parade Director

Tue 11 Nov 2014 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback

Jonathan Smith directed the 2013 Auckland Pride Parade The former Director of the Auckland Pride Parade has expressed sympathy for outgoing Pride Festival Director Julian Cook, saying he bowed out in similar circumstances. Event organiser and fundraiser Jonathan Smith, who was the Director of the inaugural Auckland Pride Parade in 2013, decided not to renew his contract the following year. He says that was because the Board decided to change the reporting lines, in negotiations led by then Board member Linda Heavey, so he would report to Cook rather than the Board, as Daily News reported in September 2013. “I tried to explain why this would not work but was told this is the way it is,” Smith says. “I realised that this would not work based on my experience working with boards, clients and working in the event industry for over 15 years. I guessed that this was the beginning of a major change in structure and it appears I was right in my thinking.” Smith says the whole process was carried out in a corporate style of management, which doesn’t work in a community setting. His comments come as Festival Director Julian Cook has resigned after organising two successful Pride Festivals, and putting in the groundwork for next year’s event. It’s understood there was a breakdown with the Board at some stage after former Board member Linda Heavey was appointed Executive Officer this year, superseding Cook, so he no longer reported directly to the Board. The Executive Officer position appears to have emerged from what was originally an admin job. There is no record of it being advertised, and it's understood to have been funded from a surplus from last year’s Pride Festival. It is understood the position is being paid in the region of $30,000 for ten hours a week, equating to an annual salary of $120,000 per anum. “I really feel for Julian as this would have been a very difficult working relationship,” Smith says. He has done a fantastic job. Not a nice way to leave. I know, I have been there as well.” Smith adds he would have applied for the Executive Officer role himself, had it been advertised. He has other frustrations with the Pride Board. He wrote to its members with concerns about the way the 2014 Parade was run, after entering a costly float, and never received a response. “I would have thought they would have had the professionalism to reply especially as I was parade director who brought the parade back with no issues. And I was being watched by so many people,” he says. “They don't understand what community liaison is all about.” Smith says Pride lost his huge database of volunteers that he built up from 10 years running fundraising pageant Queen of the Whole Universe, and his knowledge of the event industry in Auckland. He says he hasn’t spoken out about some of his concerns until now because he didn’t want to damage the Pride brand. The Auckland Pride Festival Board has released a statement, via its Executive Officer, wishing Cook well. It’s quickly commenced the search for a replacement, with the 2015 event being held in February. Daily News is awaiting answers to questions about the process through which the Executive Officer role came into existence.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Tuesday, 11th November 2014 - 11:49am

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