The gentrification of Auckland's K Rd means the area's gay culture and spaces are being lost, say residents and businesses on the central Auckland street.

Rising rents and the growth of upmarket apartments, restaurants and shops have increasingly made it difficult for the edgier, more diverse side of the central Auckland neighbourhood to survive.

"K Rd has been gentrified and the whole rainbow piece is disappearing from it," said Mark Fisher, executive director of HIV advocacy organisation Body Positive.

"You only really see the rainbow community during February, during pride, and the rest of the year it disappears and there's no space for us or identity for us in the city."


Fisher, a member of Auckland Council's Rainbow Communities Advisory Panel, is proposing a solution.

He wants an Auckland Pride Centre – a community hub which would be home to LGBTI advocacy groups, a café, a sexual health clinic, counselling rooms, a library, exhibition spaces, and meeting rooms.

It is partly based on similar centres overseas. Australia's first pride centre is set to open in Melbourne in 2020 – an architecturally ambitious, five-storey building which will cost around $41 million.

The Auckland proposal is more modest. It does not yet have a budget, and its supporters are seeking funding from Lotteries NZ to carry out a feasibility study, which will put forward three potential locations.

Fisher said the ideal site for a Pride Centre would be above the planned City Rail Link train station on Mercury Lane. The council plans to sell the space above the station to developers for apartments, and he hopes a developer will be open to accommodating a hub.

The idea for a Pride Centre in Auckland was first floated in 2007. A feasibility study was completed, but the proposal got lost in the creation of the Super City in 2010.

Since then, the gentrification of K Rd has accelerated, often at the expense of gay bars, creative industries, music stores and venues and the red light district.

The arrival of the City Rail Link, and a planned upgrade of K Rd , is expected to accelerate these changes further.

"The problem is it's getting more expensive, so people are being forced out," Fisher said.

"Bars are closing. There's only really Family Bar now – that's the only place that's left."

The K Rd Business Association is backing the proposal for a Pride Centre.

Manager Michael Richardson said the area had long been known for its diversity and the proposal would a tangible way of making sure that was preserved.

Auckland councillor Richard Hills said there was some pushback from those within the rainbow community who believed it should be aspiring to make all community spaces gay-friendly, rather than making a gay-focused hub.

"I would strive for making sure all our community spaces like libraries are inclusive and accepting of all cultures and backgrounds," he said.

"But also, if the community wants to get behind and raise money for a rainbow space then that's cool as well."

There is a silver lining to the decline of LGBTI hangouts on K Rd. Fisher agrees gay culture had become mainstream in Auckland and had moved beyond its original base in K Rd.

"You can go anywhere and you're accepted," said Fisher.

"But the problem is, if you're new to the city, where do you go to meet people?

"Most people go online and to apps. As a young person that's a bit of a problem, because the apps are actually for hook ups. So where do you actually go to meet other people in a social kind of environment?

"That's what the community centre would provide."