"Be yourself, everyone else is taken."
That was the motto of the inaugural Tauranga Moana Pride Picnic on Saturday, which aimed to raise the profile of Tauranga's LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer and intersex) community.
More than 500 people attended the picnic at the Tauranga waterfront during a colourful celebration of diversity and inclusiveness.
The rain failed to dampen the enthusiasm of members of the rainbow community - and the wider community - who came together for a fun afternoon of entertainment, live music, games, and other activities.
The waterfront was transformed into a colourful and vibrant hub of celebration and many attendees were decked out in rainbow-coloured costumes, capes, wigs and leis.
Event organising crew member Lee Lucas said the picnic was about creating more visibility of the LBGQTI community, which was lacking in Tauranga, and to recognise their rights.
Lucas said the event was for everyone, regardless of their sexual preference, and was an invitation for people to embrace the message that everyone had a right to be who they are, not to be judged nor ostracised.
Guest speaker Labour MP for Manurewa, Louisa Wall, whose 2013 bill legalised same-sex marriage, started the event with a warm welcome and a walk along The Strand.
Wall was buzzing when asked to share her thoughts about the event.
"Firstly I would like to send a shout-out to the people of Tauranga Moana for putting on this event, and the organisers deserve a tremendous bow, and so do all the people who have supported it," she told the Bay of Plenty Times.
"It's a very special event as you have provided an opportunity for our LGBTQI community to come together, to celebrate, to honour what it means to be LGBTQI in a sense of family and community," she said.
"All our young people need to know they are perfect. They were born perfect and there is nothing wrong with them.
"What events like today do is to provide them with the resilience, and the courage to be who they are, and have nothing to ashamed of."