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Pride Parade brings thousands to central city

pride-parade
Photo: RNZ/ Reesh Lyon

Report from RNZ by Reesh Lyon
Thousands of revellers turned out on the streets of Wellington last night to celebrate the city’s International Pride Parade, capping-off the two-week long Wellington Pride Festival.

Central-city pavements were packed with people as the parade wound its way along Kent Terrace, Courtenay Place and Taranaki Street before finishing on the waterfront.

Leading the parade on the back of a ute were Labour MP Louisa Wall and Miss Ribena, who said she she been attending parades like this for 20 years.

“It’s amazing what they’ve done tonight. There’s 2500 people in the parade and I’d say there’s 5000 people watching,” she said. “Happy gay pride Wellington, from me – Miss Ribena.”

Louisa Wall said she was heartened by the number of people lining the streets in support.

“I think tonight signifies a real turning point, a tipping point in how our communities are able to celebrate,” she said. “No more hiding, it’s out and proud. And look at the rest of Wellington – it’s come out too.”

Among those lining the streets to take it all in was Ashley Lovatt, who said he had lived in the city all his life.

“It’s a remarkable sight to see. We have the freedom of the streets, supported by the city and the whole place is absolutely wonderful. I’m looking forward to it next year.”

The parade featured a contingent of police staff and their Rainbow Pride Police car, a patrol vehicle painted in rainbow colours to “acknowledge the important relationship between Police and New Zealand’s Rainbow community and to celebrate diversity”. The car made its first public appearance at “Out in the Park,” the event which opened the Pride Festival in Waitangi Park last month.

About 30 police staff marched alongside the car, including Wellington Area Commander Inspector Chris Bensemann, Kapiti Mana Area Commander Tracey Thompson and National Manager of Police Professional Conduct Superintendent Anna Jackson.

Inspector Bensemann said the police’s involvement in the parade was as much about sending a message of inclusion to staff members as it was about sending a signal to the wider community. “Valuing diversity is one of our core values and as an organisation we work to support and celebrate our employees from all backgrounds,” he said.

Wellington’s Mayor Justin Lester, who also took part in the Pride Parade, this week announced plans for New Zealand’s first rainbow-coloured pedestrian crossing. Mr Lester said calls for a rainbow crossing on Cuba Street have been a recurring piece of feedback from the community in recent times.

“Wellington – and especially Cuba Street – is the home of New Zealand’s pride movement and we want to be open and proud about the way we celebrate that.”

Mr Lester said Wellington was looking to replicate overseas examples like the Castro District in San Francisco.

“The rainbow crossing will be one piece of the puzzle. It would be amazing to have a pride precinct in Cuba Street. For that to happen we need the rainbow community to keep engaging with us and tell us what they think.” Mr Lester expected the project to be completed by mid-July.