The chambers inside Horowhenua District Council had never looked so colourful, as balloons and lights were hung from the ceiling for the first Pride ball last week.
More than 80 people attended what could become an annual event.
Horowhenua District Council threw the ball as a show of support for young people in the community who were navigating the rocky teenage path and who identify as being part of the LGBTQI+, or rainbow community.
Horowhenua Mayor Bernie Wanden attended the function along with Labour MP Terisa Ngobi.
Mayor Wanden saw it as supporting an inclusive community, much in the same way council supported events such as Pasifika Day, Matariki, Diwali, and Children's Day.
"Events like this are a chance to show that we are a very diverse and welcoming community," he said.
"It was a fantastic night and really well supported ... the council chambers have never been so well decorated."
There was singing and dancing and a guest performance from Wellington entertainer Hugo Grrrl.
One of the ball attendees said: "It's really cool to see the support, especially seeing the adults and how many actually care. It was such a great experience for everybody."
Councillor Victoria Kaye Simmons said she would love to see the ball become an annual event.
"What a fabulous night, to hold such an event at the civic building and to completely transform the chambers was spectacular. The vibe was positive, happy, and a safe space for our young ones to completely enjoy their event," she said.
"They will know that their community stands with them and recognises their value and importance, free from prejudice."
"A proud community is where everyone feels valued and respected and our actions speak volumes in this instance. As an elected member I feel it's important to acknowledge all of our community."
"I fully support part of our vision statement within our youth action plan where, "young people in the Horowhenua live in a supportive environment which provides opportunities for development and celebrate success".
Kaye-Simmons also attended a Q&A session the following morning at Te Takeretanga o Kura-hau-pō that attracted more than 100 people of all ages,
She said the forum was amazing because it was an opportunity for frank and open discussion on a range of topics affecting youth.
"It totally reinforces that the need is there to encourage discussion and support from friends and family and caregivers," she said.
Horowhenua District Council communications adviser Lewis Young played a big role in organising the event and making sure Levin made an effort to celebrate Pride month and support its Rainbow youth, along with Michelle Rogerson and Kim Stewart at HDC.
Young had a distinct awareness through his own experiences of what life can be like growing up as a gay man in an environment where there was a perceived lack of acceptance.
He grew up in England and said he remembers the challenges that everyday school life posed for a young man who was coming to terms with his own sexuality.
He didn't want to go into specific details about the physical and verbal abuse he suffered at school, only to say it made it difficult to feel comfortable and safe in many situations.
"It shouldn't be that way. People should be able to be themselves," he said.
"The best thing you can do is find your team. Find your supporters."
The Q&A session at Te Takeretanga o Kura-hau-pō was a chance for people to get together and talk about the issues affecting the rainbow community. Questions were raised in a relaxed setting with a microphone passed around.
It included talks from representatives of Inside Out - a national organisation "working with youth, whānau, schools and communities to make Aotearoa a safer place for all young rainbow people to live and be in".
Inside Out was a national charity providing resources, information, workshops, consulting and support for anything concerning rainbow or LGBTQIA+ issues and education for schools, workplaces and community organisations.
Inside Out Manawatū schools co-ordinator Aroha Lowe said she was really excited about the korero that was starting to happen. It was about having all students feeling safe at school.
"Be that person that is really warm and noticing of the ones that feel uncomfortable," she said.
Lowe said it was one of the best things she had been involved with and the people who got up and spoke openly and honestly could be proud of themselves.
"Firstly it's about safety, and about celebrating who we are, and I think that's what we all saw," she said.
Lowe said Inside Out was working closely with schools and educators to provide any resources and information that might be needed and statistics showed Rainbow youth were the most vulnerable.
"We want everybody to survive and thrive at school," she said.
Te Manawa CEO Andy Lowe said attitudes were changing, and for the better, and he praised all the youth for sharing their thoughts and suggestions in an open forum.
"This is a level of bravery that I didn't have and its incredibly brave for you to all be here and do what you are doing," he said.
"In my time there was nothing. It's just how it was. You just had to hide yourself away and be something else all the time. But it is a whole new world now. It is exciting to see this happening," he said.
"It was like a desert for me and people like me when I was younger."
"I'm excited for the future."
There was also growing support within secondary schools. Both Waiopehu and Horowhenua colleges worked together and have created support groups for their Rainbow students.
There was no question that bullying was still an issue. The group discussed coping mechanisms and agreed it was best to completely ignore any taunts and not respond.
Several school students identified the need for a space where they could feel safe at school.
If anyone was isolated or alone it helped to find and identify one "safe" person in their lives who they could trust and feel safe to confide in and talk to. Research showed one trustworthy person could make a huge difference to someone's life.
A change in accepted norms was required for school balls, too, to allow anyone to attend "as authentically as they want", and that meant anyone could wear a ball gown or a tuxedo, irrespective of gender.
One issue that was brought up was the need for more gender-neutral toilet facilities at schools. There were occasions when some students were going an entire school day without going to the toilet.
That was because they couldn't feel safe using the facility they were expected to visit, suggesting individual unisex toilets cubicles that could be locked, allowing for complete privacy.
Te Takeretanga o Kura-hau-pō librarian Pam Coleman said the library was always working towards making it a more inclusive space for everyone in the community, and was considering what content it could stock that was appropriate for all young people.