Tauranga's Pride was a huge success - helped by a stunning day drawing crowds of hundreds.

It's only the second Pride event the city has hosted, but organiser Gordy Lockhart says there's already been a shift in attitudes.

"It's gone from a position of being heartening but disappointing at the same time, to being now heartening," he said.

"Last year we were quite aware that there were two schools, who shall remain nameless, who were actively discouraging kids from attending Pride in Tauranga - which in my mind is just horrendous. They're there to educate our kids on society and not preclude the areas of that society from them."

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The schools unwilling to engage again this year did so for religious reasons. But Pride continues to grow, thanks in part to the backing of Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell.

"[He] said to me afterwards that he'd always been supportive of the LGBT cause, but as a result of that event he understood the basis of the context of it.

"What that did was lead us to understand that it was about the education of the 'why' and that's what we've gone for this time.

"So we've gone from that scenario of people not really understanding what it is, in some cases questioning the need, to now 'hey, that's great – let's embrace it'."

Law enforcement enjoying the party. Photo / Gavin Ogden
Law enforcement enjoying the party. Photo / Gavin Ogden

At its core Pride is all about promoting understanding and ultimately, happiness.

"The main thing we talk about is 'you be you'," Lockhart said.

"It doesn't matter who you are but you do the best thing you can at being you. In this context, it's about the LGBT community, but in general the idea of 'you be you' is a premise we should all live by."

Tauranga Girls' College guidance councillor Sue Ferguson said last year's inaugural Pride Picnic was an important step in the right direction for LGBT students.

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"That was really helpful for staff to hear their voices and hear how proud they were of who they are," Ferguson said. "Change is hard for some people and it's affected by not only culture but religion, so that's where we are in many countries in the world. But the voices are slowly being heard, which is the students' voice, which is great."

The main thing we talk about is 'you be you' says Gordy Lockhart. Photo / Gavin Ogden
The main thing we talk about is 'you be you' says Gordy Lockhart. Photo / Gavin Ogden

Local students from Tauranga Girls' College have noticed the region becoming more accepting of the LGBTQI community and they're proud to be driving that change.

"It definitely is because Pride is very young - this is only the second Pride Picnic we've had," Isys Wesche, leader of the college's Queer Youth and Supporters Group said.

"Tauranga itself is becoming a lot more aware by holding these events in the first place. I think Tauranga, especially its youth, is becoming more supportive."

Year 13 student Mallika Dey agrees.

"I haven't actually faced too many issues," she said. "It's more the internal thing, like internal worry about what people are going to think about me because you don't really know who will support you and who won't."

For Year 11 student Dana Stamenkovic, New Zealand is a more relaxed place to live than her previous home in Thailand.

"Since moving to New Zealand I can see that people here are more open and relaxed about point of views, New Zealand's more culturally diverse and sexually diverse, so it's easier to accept."

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