Auckland Council shamed into giving Scots a hand up

Pressure from NBR ONLINE shames council into making a grant towards this month's Highland Games.

Pressure from NBR ONLINE shamed the Auckland Council into making a grant towards this month’s Highland Games.

Organisers had been pleading with the council to maintain a modest funding stream in place for 15 years.

But this year the tap was turned off leaving the Scots fuming about mayor Len Brown and his council.

 “It’s disgusting what’s happened,” Scotsman Tom Shiels, one of the organisers, told NBR ONLINE.

“I had a meeting last week face-to-face with the mayor and, of course, he said, ‘We’ll be looking into it’ but it’s all just rubbish."

Mr Shiels says the council’s decision not to make a $25,000 grant towards the games, which attracts around 10,000 people from New Zealand and around the world, is racist.

He says his committee was considering laying a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

“What really irks us is that the Pacific Islands festival got around $225,000, the Waitangi Day people got $90,000, the Chinese Lantern group got $90,000 and the Diwali Festival, and they’re only newcomers, got over $100,000.

“We’ve got nothing against them getting it, all we want is the same consideration as an ethnic group.

"Our committee believes we’re not getting the money because we’re European and, on the face of it, you’d have to say that is a fact.

“I said to the mayor, ‘For God’s sake Len get behind us, you should be on our side, you’ve got your own tartan!’

 “One of the obstacles was they wanted us to get planning permission and resource consent for a tent which would be erected for just six hours.

“And that would have cost us about $300 – it’s incompetence of the highest order.

“I said to the mayor, 'the Scots have given more to this city and this country than all of those others put together' and history proves that.

“I mean, 65% of European New Zealanders are of Scottish descent.

“He’s all agreeable but I think when he’s out of sight he must say, ‘Oh, stuff them’.

“I don’t know if this is one way of wearing us down but the Scots have a habit of never giving in, as history proves.”

After speaking with Mr Shiels NBR ONLINE contacted Glyn Walters, the council’s public affairs and media manager, seeking comment.

After undertaking to look into the matter, Mr Walters shortly afterwards sent us the following email.

“Rod, We have agreed [today] with the Auckland Highland Games organiser that we can offer $8000 towards this year’s event.

“For next year’s games we’ve also offered help on the funding application process, event facilitation and sponsorship.

“Regards, Glyn.”

NBR ONLINE then contacted Mr Shiels again to see whether this information had been conveyed to him.

“Yes, we’ve just found out and it must be due to your efforts,” he said. “Thank you so much for prodding them into action – you’re a wizard.”  

While the sum concerned, $8000, is less than he had hoped for, and considerably less than that given to other events, Mr Shiels is not complaining.

“It’s good news and better than nothing,” he said.

All of which means the organisers of the event, which has been running on and off for nearly a century, will no longer be flying the Scotland flag at half mast when the games are held in Auckland on November 24 – an action they had planned as a protest against the council’s parsimony.

And neither will they have to remind everyone of what Robbie Burns once said:

“The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
 gang aft a-gley, [often go awry] 
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, 
For promised joy.”

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