Gore the least gay town in New Zealand

Gore, once lampooned as the gay capital of New Zealand, is officially one of the least homosexual towns in New Zealand.

Census results have revealed that there are just three gay couples living together in the South Island town, all lesbians.

According to locals, the women work in shearing gangs, but they stay well under the social radar.

Local wedding celebrant Peter Crake, originally from Hamilton, says Gore is not gay-friendly.

"Down here it's like the deep south of America. Homosexuals are frowned upon... if they are that way inclined, they keep to themselves."

Crake said a couple had rung him to inquire about a civil union but despite his encouragement they decided not to go ahead, and did not leave their names.

Gore's sensitivity around gay issues was revealed after it was ridiculed by television personality Mikey Havoc and his sidekick Jeremy "Newsboy" Wells.

Havoc labelled the Southland town New Zealand's "gay capital" - and the mayor threatened to run them out of town.

Hayley Meekin, 24, manages Gore's pub and cafe, Howl At The Moon. She told the Sunday Star- Times the findings didn't surprise her at all after living in the town for 11 years.

"I don't know why it is, but I definitely haven't noticed any gay couples coming in who are local. I think Mikey Havoc only said what he did because gay rhymes with Gore."

Despite extensive searches, the Star-Times was unable to locate any of the same-sex couples in Gore.

"I was born in Gore - but I understand why no one wants to speak about it. I think the stigma attached to homosexuality in the region really discourages people talking about it," said Owen Allison, editor of Express, New Zealand's biggest gay and lesbian newspaper.

"I could never go back."

The township now joins the Hawke's Bay and Kaikoura as one of New Zealand's least gay areas.

Auckland, where homosexuals protested after the Hero Parade was cancelled, has the largest number of same-sex couples.

There are more than 1300 in the City of Sails, followed by Wellington and Christchurch.

The new figures also suggest that same-sex couples are less likely to nest than their heterosexual counterparts, with homosexual couples making up just under 1% of all couples in New Zealand in 2006.

Christchurch nurses Louise and Christina have been living together in a relationship for more than 20 years.

"I am surprised there are not more same-sex couples according to the Census," said Christina.

"People are generally very open about it now. We have never had any trouble. I think that the Census must have missed a big chunk."

The numbers of gay men living together rose slightly from the 2001 Census to reach 0.3% in 2006, while the number of lesbian women cohabiting made up 0.4% of all couples living together.

Numerically this means that there were 3516 female couples and 2655 male couples living together in 2006, compared with 867,696 couples of the opposite sex.

Although the numbers only take into account same-sex couples who live together, they are the most accurate statistics indicating the number of gay people in New Zealand.

There was no question on the Census forms about sexual orientation.

Statistics New Zealand also warns that it randomly rounds the figures to protect privacy. In other words, the actual number of gay couples in Gore could be fewer than three.

Sunday Star Times