Refusal to fund Highland Games 'racist'

JESS ETHERIDGE
Last updated 05:00 15/11/2012
Highland Games
JASON OXENHAM
FIRED UP: Tom Shiels of Beach Haven is furious after the Auckland Highland Games’ $25,000 funding claim was rejected by Auckland Council.

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Furious Scots are claiming racism after Auckland Council rejected its $25,000 funding claim for this year's Highland Games.

Scotsman Tom Shiels, from Beach Haven, is "flabbergasted" after the council told organisers on Tuesday the 91-year-old annual event would not receive a cent of funding.

Mr Shiels is considering taking his claim to the Human Rights Commission as he claims the decision is racist.

The Scots plan to fly the flag at half mast at the games and Mr Shiels says he is not against protesting at the council buildings.

The games, held in Three Kings Reserve, celebrate Scottish history and competition and have been held since 1921.

More than 10,000 people attend from around New Zealand and the world, Mr Shiels says.

They include throwing the caber, stalls and traditional Scottish and Celtic performances.

For 15 years the council has funded the event in some capacity, he says.

"Now they've cut the grant completely.

"It's unbelievable."

He says other Auckland cultural events such as Diwali and the Chinese Lantern Festival receive funding from the council.

"We just want the same consideration", Mr Shiels says. "The super-city is a joke."

The Highland Games used to be run on a profit through admission sales until the council decided to get involved, he says.

"I've had a guts-full," he says after the committee applied several times for funding.

Auckland Council told the North Shore Times earlier this month it was yet to make a decision but said what funds awarded, if any, would be paid out in December - after the event takes place November 24.

The committee applied through the council's community group assistance fund.

Auckland Council media liaison Benedict Collins said earlier this month: "The decision meeting made for this fund is to be held on November 9.

"All applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application in November and successful groups will be paid out at the beginning of December."

Mr Shiels hopes performers will play for free as organisers cannot afford to pay them.

As for next year, the event will still go ahead.

"One thing about the Scots: They never give in.

"We won't be going away," he says.

Auckland Council did not respond to Mr Shiels' latest comments.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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