Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Scots fuming over funding

Auckland mayor accused of pandering to new migrant communities ahead of early settlers.

Scottish community leaders (from left) John Hawthorn, Tom White and Tom Shiels are unhappy with the Auckland Council's community events funding. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Scottish community leaders (from left) John Hawthorn, Tom White and Tom Shiels are unhappy with the Auckland Council's community events funding. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Scottish community leaders say Auckland's mayor is paying more attention to new migrant communities than traditional settler heritage.

Tom Shiels, president of the Scottish Cultural Festival, said events such as Diwali and the Lantern Festival were getting "significantly more" council funding, and received far better support than the Auckland Highland Games.

The games, celebrated by Scots and people of Scottish descent at the Three Kings Reserve every November, date back to 1920.

But they receive just $8000 from the council, while the more recently established Diwali, Pasifika and Lantern festivals all received in excess of $100,000.

Mr Shiels said he had been informed that Pasifika received the highest amount, with more than $225,000 being pumped into the annual event, which is thought to attract more than 200,000 visitors a year.

Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, is celebrated this weekend in Auckland with traditional and contemporary Indian dance performances, rangoli displays, an Indian food fair and a fireworks display.

The Highland Games attract about 10,000 visitors a year, while Diwali and the Lantern Festival bring in between 100,000 and 200,000 a year.

Mr Shiels said it angered him to see the amount of support and publicity the council and its agencies were giving to Diwali.

"In all fairness to Diwali and the Chinese Lantern [festival], go ahead, make a good go of it, but we want the same consideration for funding as them," said Mr Shiels.

"It would be fair to say that if it had not been for the Scots, Auckland and New Zealand would be a totally different place today."

Mr Shiels estimated that 65 per cent of Pakeha in New Zealand were of Scottish descent, and this made Scottish festivals "a far more significant ethnic event" for Auckland.

Mr Shiels said the cost of running the Highland Games was $30,000 and "the bagpipes would be silenced" if organisers did not receive more funding than they did last year.

The games organisers used to charge an entry fee but had to turn it into a free event after the council offered to provide a park and cover expenses, a promise it did not live up to, said Mr Shiels.

In a letter to the council, Mr Shiels wrote: "If this is how the Super City performs, it certainly leaves a lot to be desired.

"I was under the impression it was for the benefit of all people regardless of race, colour and creed."

The Auckland Council yesterday would not disclose the exact amount the different festivals received, or say how the council decides how much each event gets.

Nigel Horrocks, the council's senior media adviser, said: "Festival organisation and support often involves multiple third parties including many community groups."

The council would not comment on Mr Shiels' claims that the Scottish community was being sidelined.

Mr Brown said all major international cities, including Auckland, were showing a trend towards greater diversity.

Ethnic festival funding estimate

$225,000 Pasifika
$100,000+ Diwali, Lantern Festival
$8000 Auckland Highland Games.

- NZ Herald

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