Gay pride parade may return to Auckland

BIG GAY OUT: Prime minister John Key mingles with the Caluzzi Girls.
BIG GAY OUT: Prime minister John Key mingles with the Caluzzi Girls.

Prime Minister John Key has again signalled that a gay pride parade may return to the streets of Auckland, as he spoke to record crowds at the city's Big Gay Out festival today.

Speaking at the festival in Pt Chevalier's Coyle Park Key said Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye had been working with Auckland mayor Len Brown on plans to bring a parade to Ponsonby Road next year.

Key also said at last year's Big Gay Out that there were plans afoot to get a parade back up and running.  A hero parade was last held in Auckland in 2001, before it was cancelled because of mounting debts.

It is understood an application has been made to ATEED (Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development) for funds to hold the parade.

Key was joined on stage by Kaye and said it was the sixth time he had attended the annual festival and he said it was ''getting bigger and better each time''.

Key was well received by the crowd although he was subject to a few, mostly good natured, heckles about making marriage legal for gay people, and about asset sales.

New Zealand Aids Foundation national communications co-ordinator Dawn O'Connor said they were expecting crowds of about 14,000 throughout the day, well up on the about 10,000 who attended last year. Among the crowd are about 22 MPs and mayor Brown.

She said cloudy but warm weather seemed to have attracted a large crowd, and many were sticking around to enjoy the wide variety of entertainment and stalls on offer.

As well she said for the first time at the festival free tests for HIV were being offered following on from recent reports which found that 1 in 5 gay men with HIV in Auckland don't know they have the virus.

O'Connor said the tests were proving popular with a line ''around the corner''. The results were not being handed back immediately but those who took the test would be rung and informed of their result in the next couple of days.