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Auckland Pride's Big Change

18 Jan 2023
This year's Festival will be the end of a transformative period for a crucial event in Tāmaki Makaurau's creative community - find what's happening here.

The man who has steered the Auckland Pride Festival through the tumultuous seas of the pandemic is hauling anchor and sailing off into the sunset.


Executive Director Max Tweedie will end his four-year stint in the role, announcing February’s month-long festival will be his last.  The hunt is already underway for his replacement (you can find the job details here).


His presence has been a vocal one through the course of the lockdowns that brought Tāmaki Makaurau’s creative community to a grinding halt all too often over the past three years.


Tweedie became not just a leading advocate for the rainbow communities but for the arts in general, proving himself to be among the new generation of arts leaders who are not prepared to sit idly by while the livelihoods and wellbeing of creatives was being impacted.


Tweedie’s influence over the Pride Festival itself has also been impressive, with Auckland Pride’s board declaring in a statement that he had strengthened the team and rejuvenated the festival in a transformational period for the event.


"It has been the privilege of a lifetime to have led Auckland Pride for the past four years” Tweedie explains. “I am immensely proud of my contributions to this organisation and our communities, and believe the time is right with the organisation in a strong position for me to step down and pass the baton to a new Executive Director to lead Auckland Pride into its next era. I’m looking forward to taking on a new challenge and working out what’s next!”


Auckland Pride co-Chair Kaan Hiini expands “Max joined Auckland Pride in 2019 at a challenging moment and wasted no time bringing his energy and stabilising the organisation. 


“He has helped Auckland Pride revitalise our vision as we shifted our focus to acknowledge the diverse needs of takatāpui and rainbow communities in Tāmaki Makaurau. Key to this has been growing and developing  pathways into Pride for communities historically not served or seen.” 


The numbers tell a similar story. Hiini continues, “under Max’s direction, the 2020 Auckland Pride Festival enjoyed a record attendance of over 60,000 participants across a record 154 events and made a statement that we were back.


“In 2021 Max led the significant shift to expand the Auckland Pride Festival to Auckland Pride Month responding to the dramatic growth of the Festival in 2020.”


Despite Covid-related setbacks, the 2021 Auckland Pride Festival broke all of the records set in 2020 with a record attendance of over 75,000 people, a record 203 events programmed, and 9,000 attendees at the Pride March.


The festival’s post event survey showed 72% of attendees felt more connected to their communities, a key driver in better social and mental health outcomes. Additionally, the survey demonstrated the Auckland Pride Festival audience was more diverse than ever, with Māori, Pacific, and Asian communities overrepresented in audience statistics relative to their population percentage.


Max Tweedie. Photo: Supplied.


Hiini refers to Tweedie’s planning during the last few years as “an industry-leading COVID-19 response” where he “demonstrated effective, fast, and values-based decision making.” ”


Fellow board co-chair Christian Rika also speaks highly of Tweedie’s unwavering support for all in the rainbow communites.


“From the ban on conversion therapy, equity in the COVID-19 response and vaccine rollout, the proposed hate-speech laws, the rise in hate crimes and more brazen attacks, the rise in anti-trans rhetoric from the political right, and against homophobia and transphobia broadly - Max has ensured that Auckland Pride remains a relevant and important voice advocating for rainbow communities on important issues. 


“We cannot thank Max enough for his outstanding commitment and contribution to Auckland Pride”.


Tweedie plans to go out with a bang, with next month’s Pride Festival (1-26 February) set to be another big one including big events like the Pride March and Pride in the Square. His resignation won’t take effect until a new Executive Director has assumed the role.