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Auckland Pride responds: part one

Thu 2 Jul 2015 In: Our Communities View at Wayback View at NDHA

On Friday Daily News sat down with Auckland Pride Festival Executive Officer Linda Heavey and Board member Paul Patton for a forthright discussion on some of the main claims and concerns about the event, and why it seems like they haven’t been engaging with the wider community. This series features Pride's response to our earlier series of articles where spoke to a number of people in the community concerned about what’s been happening behind the scenes of Auckland Pride: Part one Part two Part three You can also check out our latest news stories on other updates from Pride here: Pride: 2016 dates and new board members Auckland Pride to hold community forums Treaty will return to Ak Pride constitution In part one, we look at Pride’s governance: Why did Pride change from a Charitable Trust to an Incorporated Society? Linda Heavey says that due to its main purpose being running an event, Auckland Pride did not fit the criteria for charitable status. She says under the former model the trustees were also personally liable, “so that was really not sustainable moving forward”. She says some very good people were keen on coming onto the Trust board, but were too wary of the financial risk they’d be exposed to. Who is on the current board? Richard James and Julie Swift are acting co-chairs ahead of an AGM in July. Phylesha Brown-Acton and Paul Patton are the other returning Board members. They are joined by three new members: Shirley Allan, Kirsten Sibbit and Vinnie Sykes. Read more about them here The consultant members remain the same. They are appointed for two years. As for how the board members are picked, a call for applications goes out each year. Pride says it’s not a matter of board members just grabbing who they want and basically stacking the board. Board member Paul Patton himself is someone who applied after reading about the call for applications in the media. “No one tapped me on the shoulder!” he laughs. Heavey says they ultimately select the people they believe are best for the board, but certainly appeal publicly for people to put their hands up to be considered. She thinks having seven people on the board is a good number for getting things done. “In terms of dynamics, any smaller is probably too small … it’s quite a good number to actually make decisions and to move things along.” Public forums and communication with the community Auckland Pride will hold three community forums in the lead-up to next year's event, and is endeavouring to increase its channels for community feedback. The dates are yet to be announced, but September and October are likely. Heavey says it will be a chance for the community to be updated on some upcoming changes to Pride’s business model and structure. You can read more about that and Pride’s planned boost in channels for feedback here Its upcoming AGM will not be open to the community. Heavey says that’s because it's a governance and business process for Board members and consultant members, rather than an open forum - which is why public forums are being planned. Being community-focused Regarding the suggestion that Pride grew out of a strong community mandate from the original consultation meetings, but has since lost its sense and spirit of that original mandate, Heavey believes a lack of resources, in terms of people, has meant they haven’t been able to mobilise to talk with the wider community, beyond immediate partners and key groups. “But [we haven’t had] the open community meetings because, one, we’ve had those other priorities to attend to,” she says of groups Pride has an obligation to report back to. They want that to change, by getting more people on-board and changing the structure. (Note: You can read more about that in part two of this feature tomorrow.) After Pride winds up at the end of February there is a bit of a window where it's lightly resourced before work begins in earnest for the following year, Heavey says. “By changing the structure, by dedicating people over that period, we will be able to keep that community consultation going as a matter of course, and keep it going year round.” She adds there has been no intent not to connect with the community, “it’s just that our resource and our structure have held us back a bit.” The pair say all feedback has been gratefully received, they just simply haven’t had the chance to discuss and respond to recommendations which have been made, including some from the Parade Director for the past two years Richard Taki. Heavey says they wouldn’t make decisions immediately when they receive feedback, however the board has responded to communication it received directly from Taki. She says they gather all the feedback and recommendations and consider it all as a collection. “That has to happen in the right time and in the right process. For example, we can’t bind a person coming in based on the recommendations of the previous person. So the process is to receive them and in that instance, if it’s a contractor, discuss them as part of the debrief meeting.” On the concern from the board’s consultant members that they haven’t felt sufficiently consulted, Heavey says “we have definitely had a willingness to [consult], but what has held us up is just that limited resource. And what resource we have had has been taken up with whatever’s been the priority at the time. “We actually had had some planning meetings we had intended to hold and invite consultant members to, and they kind of fell through the gaps in between that crossover time of appointing new board members. So that put a little bit of a halt on things. “Because we had a strategic planning process last year and we were very much wanting to follow on from that with the consultant members and other stakeholders, to keep some of the developments of our sub-plans going. And we had originally intended that to be happening over the last few months and it’s just fallen through the gaps in the changing over of members and just not having anyone to get to it. “Definitely we need to jump on that and do that better.” What would Pride like you to know? We offered Pride the chance to add whatever message they wanted to get across to the community. “From my perspective I think the main message, and it may be not clear, is that we are fully committed to doing what we do for our community. That's why we're here,” Heavey says. Patton added: “We're a tiny group of individuals who feel passionate about doing the best and we want to produce the best events.” Heavey says they can only achieve that with community support. “So that's essentially what we are going out to do, through consultation, through inviting people to run our events, opening the umbrella of Pride up to people to have their own events, to promote their own messages.” When asked whether the quid pro quo of asking for support is that Pride will be more open and transparent where appropriate, Heavey doesn’t hesitate to say “open and transparent full stop,” and Patton agrees. “We always have been. We just haven't been resourced enough,” Heavey says. Patton says they have never had anything to hide, “but... small group, volunteers, passionate, best will in the world, but sometimes we can't achieve what everyone would like us to achieve.” Heavey is concerned there is a slightly skewed impression of what people think about Pride because she believes the dialogue through the media has been courting negative feedback. “But the people who are more than happy and support us and are confident and want to engage with us are talking directly to us. So we've got an enormous picture of those people. But unfortunately your current story that has gone down that road hasn't really been reflective of the huge amount of support that there actually is for Pride.” In part two we will discuss resourcing, staff and volunteers, plus the contentious issue of corporate cash. In part three, we’ll look back at this year’s event, including the No Pride in Prisons protest, then look ahead to next year. Jacqui Stanford and Jay Bennie - 2nd July 2015    

Credit: Jacqui Stanford and Jay Bennie

First published: Thursday, 2nd July 2015 - 12:24pm

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