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Hero Parade

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The Hero Parade was an (almost) annual gay and lesbian Parade through the streets of Auckland, New Zealand, in the 1990s. The last Parade was in 2001. It was the showpiece of the Hero Festival in Auckland which runs to the present day. The Hero Parade and Festival usually took place in February, a week or two ahead of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

The Parade was an event attended by more than one hundred thousand people annually, (and at its height, by as many as three hundred thousand), in the years that it ran, from 1992 to 2001. It is a significant Parade historically for New Zealand because of the public impact, the controversy, and (in the end) the acceptance of gay life in New Zealand that was evident because of it.

Gay rights in New Zealand were significantly improved because of the Hero Parade. In 1999 the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Rt Hon Jenny Shipley, of the National Party announced that she would attend the Parade. The Leader of the Opposition, Rt Hon Helen Clark had attended the Parade several times before and she criticised the then National Government for not attending earlier. In the end the Hero Parade was the beneficiary of the publicity created, and the Parades in 1999 and 2001 were bigger than ever before.

In 1998, the Auckland City Promotions Committee voted against funding the Parade. A complaint against the Committee was made to the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, alleging discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. The Commission reported that it could not find any evidence of discrimination. By 2001 however Auckland City Council was prepared to support the Parade, and did so.

The Hero Parade, despite the public enthusiasm, was under constant financial pressure. The 2000 Parade was cancelled for a lack of organised financial backing, and the 2001 Parade, for which there were high hopes, again saw the Hero Trust Board make a significant loss. The organisation responsible for the Hero Parade (the Hero Trust Board) was unable to continue and to the present day, despite aspirations expressed by some, there has been no further Parade.

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