Refusal to fund games 'racist', says Scotsman

JESS ETHERIDGE
Last updated 05:00 15/11/2012
Tom Shiels
JESS ETHERIDGE/ Fairfax NZ
GUTS-FULL: Tom Shiels is frustrated with Auckland Council's decision to cut funding for the annual Highland Games, which have been running since 1921.

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A furious Scotsman is claiming racism after Auckland Council rejected a $25,000 funding claim for this year's Highland Games.

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.

Shiels is considering taking his claim to the Human Rights Commission as he claims the decision is racist, and he is not against protesting at 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, Shiels said.

The event includes caber toss, stalls and traditional Scottish and Celtic performances.

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

''Now they've cut the grant completely. It's unbelievable.''

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

''We just want the same consideration. 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 said.

Auckland Council told Fairfax Media earlier this month it was yet to make a decision but said what funds awarded, if any, would be paid out in December - even though the event is on November 24.

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

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 said.

Auckland Council did not respond to requests this week for comment.

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