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Sunday 11 October 2015

Outgames progress update, August 7, 2015

Posted in: Our Communities, Out Games News
By Jay Bennie and Jacqui Stanford - 7th August 2015

Outgames Update, Aug 7 - 189 days to go

A scene from the closing plenary of the 2011 Outgames human rights conference talks with two of the Fourth Asia-Pacific Outgames organising committee members in the first of what we hope will become weekly progress updates for the Auckland and wider glbti communities. The Games, with associated human rights and cultural events, are scheduled to start on February 13th.

Today we talk with David Gurney and Ashley Barratt.


The committee lost several members in recent months. But the current executive committee wrangling the Auckland Outgames back into place includes Damian Strogen who is executive director, David Gurney is secretary, Wayne Lockwood is Treasurer, Ashley Barratt doing sponsorship and fundraising and Craig Watson is a new committee member who has become involved over past few weeks.

Gurney says over the past few days, since the lack of major Auckland City funding and corporate sponsorships was announced, the team has had people coming forward and offering support, but not necessarily for formal Executive roles.

“That’s where we can see if they are competent in something, or have expertise, and we can focus them on a task, rather than necessarily taking up the burden of an executive role.”


Last week it was announced that the board behind the Outgames organisers had resigned en masse two weeks earlier. As far as Daily News is aware that board included, at the time of the resignations, lawyer Prue Kapua, corporate executives Martin King and Kerry Underhill, activist Phylesha Brown-Acton and and possibly new Auckland Pride co-chair Vinnie Sykes.

Although's attempts to speak with board members have so far drawn a blank we understand some sort of breakdown of confidence in the organising committee led the board to resign. Executive Director Strogen, who we understand was the link person between the board and the committee, is still unavailable to speak on the matter while he is overseas.

Gurney says all the board members submitted their resignations and stepped away, but officially they need to give three months’ notice. In effect this means the board members still have ultimate authority over the Outgames organisation. They could regroup and use their authority for any reason.

“What we are seeking really is for them to meet again, to hand over authority to the Executive Committee. So we can then take it forward and open up registrations and get this thing moving,” Gurney says.

If the Board delegates authority while its members work out their notice, the Executive Committee would be able to go ahead and more easily make decisions.

Asked whether the committee is in contact with the board, Gurney says its members have been sent various emails. “We have tried to meet with them. But we haven’t been successful meeting person to person.”

Gurney says that in case the Board members don’t play ball and formally hand over authority the committee members looking at other options.

“There is commitment by quite a few people now and the motivation to make this work. When you have a natural grouping of people like that, I think we’ve got an obligation to think about and work around it if the Board doesn’t re-engage.”

For instance, a new organisation with a new Board could possibly be created, with authority from Outgames franchise owners GLISA, the non-profit Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association, and the Auckland Council.

“It’s a slight hindrance at the moment, but it’s something we can work around,” Gurney says.


Gurney says as of now, the event has a team of five core and motivated people “who have had a look at whether we can achieve something over a reasonably short time-frame. We’ve all dug down and while we can’t do it all ourselves, we are confident we can achieve it, especially with the people we have involved now.

“We have quite a bit of organisation that’s happened behind the scenes. So we have a good sports programme. We have quite good thinking behind how those sports will work, where they will be held, when they will be held and the numbers that we need to attract.

“We have breakdowns of how many entrants we need to make these games viable. That’s between 850 and 1,000. And we have looked at contacts offshore to validate that that’s ok,” he says, referring to the big sports clubs in Australia.


“So that’s in place. We have secured venues for the sports events. And at the moment in terms of the financial situation we’re at the point if we can open registrations and get a bit of funding, we can go. But we’re not overly stretched. So we’re in a reasonably ok state financially, at this point in time.”

As for the Human Rights Conference part of the Outgames, Gurney says the group is talking to several organisations about support when it comes to a venue and organisation.

“Once we’ve secured that, then we can start working with other people in the community about helping us to work out the programme.”

On the cultural side of things, Barratt says events are already planned for every night of the Outgames, including opening and closing celebrations. “We’re reasonably well developed in terms of plans. What we actually just need is to actually get somebody to work to contract those and then start to work on the detail. But even on the website at the moment there’s some elements in terms of what those cultural events will be. And obviously our intention is to augment those with the Auckland Pride Festival so that we actually have a really compelling programme. We see that as one of the significant benefits of having the co-located, co-dependent programme between Pride and the Outgames.”


Due to the lack of big financial input the Outgames will definitely be scaled back from what was originally envisaged. The organisers are now planning a ‘base scenario event,’ which entails a well-run sports programme, a scaled-back human rights forum, and cultural events which pay their way.

“It won’t be a ‘well-catered’ games,” says Gurney, “but it will be a great thing to come to. Especially given Pride is on at the same time. It would certainly be enough to attract people here.”

The current budget is based on likely registrations. “We’re looking at the registration fees and how that could fund the majority of that cost. With a realistic assumption about some additional funding and sponsorship, because we think in a city like Auckland we can attract at least some of that.

“But that said, we can scale that up. Depending on how successful our sponsorship and funding drive is over the next month, then we will be able to scale it up significantly … if we get excellent sponsorship support, then events like the opening and closing ceremonies will be scaled up. The [package] that we give to registrants when they arrive, that could be more significant.

“It’s a realistic plan based on what we now know, it can be added to if we get greater means through sponsorship and funding.”


Auckland Council has endorsed the Outgame and to that end Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse was at the launch and has been very supportive. There was hope its events arm ATEED would approve some funding, but that hasn’t happened.


When asked where things now stand with Auckland Council, Gurney says they have just been re-engaging with some councilors and Hulse. “We’re in talks with them about what they can do to help us deliver this games. They are very keen that this is a successful event. So we’re in talks with them about how they can help and potential funding options that might come through.

“And again, ATEED, they declined a grant to us, but we’re still talking with them.”

Barratt says since this week’s rallying call Auckland Council has shown a willingness to participate both with the Executive Committee and the event.


Gurney says there has been an excellent response since the call for help went out.

“Over the past week I think I’ve had more conversations with more people across more organisations than we probably have had for many months. And people are actually raising their hands and sending emails and saying ‘we want to be engaged and involved in this. So that’s been the most significant change, I think, in the last week.”

He says 'quite a few' people have come forward wanting to get directly involved. “For example there is one person who was involved with another Outgames, who has moved to Wellington, and is very keen to be involved at executive level. So we’re talking to them at the moment. We’ve also had lots of individuals coming forward, maybe people we have engaged before right at the start, but they’re now really engaging with us now that we’ve gone out and said we need the community behind us. I have been heartened by the level of people who have come forward actually, after we went out and rallied the community.”

Barratt says individuals have come forward, organisations have come forward and potential sponsors have come forward. “We still need the community to engage with us in a real and significant way. And so, actually what we have to do is find a way of actually making that possible, over the next month, to enable people who are potential participants, who are potential volunteers, who are potential sponsors, who are potential supporters of the event, to actually make themselves known, and for us to actually find a way of engaging them into the event.

“Because that’s going to be the way that we actually deliver something marvellous.”

Gurney says some community groups have also come forward to say they have ideas which they may be too small to deliver themselves, so perhaps they can get on board with Outgames and do them together. “I think that’s good, and if the community organisations that are out there can creatively think about how they might want to engage with us, to help move their needs forward as well, we’re going to welcome that. I think that’s a key change actually, where we’re kind of more open to partnering with others now and working collaboratively than maybe was the case a few months ago.”


When it comes to time and confidence in the event being an issue for people from overseas and other parts of New Zealand, people who need to be able to make commitments to attend, get time off work and make bookings etc., Gurney says the event is at a crucial point.

“Within the next week, really, we’ll know if it’s a go or no go. And therefore we’ll be very, very certain in a fortnight [if we can say] ‘book your tickets and come.’ But I’m pretty confident we’ll be going ahead.”

“I think we should just say to international residents that we’re mindful of that concern and that what we’re trying to do is open registration as soon as we can,” Barratt adds. “There are some constraints to that which are actually resolvable.”


When it comes to the massive level of work which still needs to go in to make the Outgames happen, and whether Auckland has the volunteers and organisers necessary, Barratt says they have in the last week identified people who are well-prepared to help, it’s now just a matter of logistics.

“And we need to broaden the team in the organising group. But we’ve got a pathway for that. In the next two to three weeks we need to make it happen.”


Jay Bennie and Jacqui Stanford - 7th August 2015

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