Ardon England felt like he was "the only gay in the village" growing up in Whanganui.

But, 12 years on, things have changed and England was back in his home town to perform at Whanganui's first pride week.

"Whanganui has changed," England said. "Especially in the gay community over the last five years, I've noticed a big change. I think that's more because people from out of town are moving in."

It's not the first small town in New Zealand to have Pride celebrations but Whanganui planned to take it to the next level and this year's Pride Week initiative was part of it.


Paul Chaplow from Whanganui and Partners - the strategic lead for tourism to the town -wanted to make Whanganui the LGBTQI capital of New Zealand.

"Whanganui is quite unique. For being a provincial town, there is a lot of diversity," he said.

The city has recently implemented initiatives including same sex education and safe places for the diverse community.

"If I'd had those kind of safe hubs, I definitely would have used them and it probably would have made growing up and being a teenager easier than it was 12 years ago," England said.

Pride Week organiser Christina Emery said claiming LGBTQI capital status was still some way off.

"Unfortunately there's not a lot available for certain parts of the community, like trans-gender people," she said.

"I wanted to make sure that the very basics were covered before we even started shouting from the rooftops that we were accepting and a safe place to be."

With big businesses such as Countdown coming on board and buy-in from the wider community, diversity is becoming much more mainstream.


Countdown recently got a Rainbow Tick accreditation.

"For us it's huge," said Trafalger Square Countdown Manager, Kristen Pinnan. "We are one of the biggest employers in the country."

It may be the beginning of significant change for Whanganui.

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