Walking the diversity talk in the capital
Wellington’s proud of its reputation for embracing diversity. And it’s gone all out to prove it’s “walking the talk” by installing a Rainbow Crossing in the central city. The controlled crossing, between the traffic lights at the intersection of Dixon St and Cuba Mall, was officially opened on October 10, which is also the birthday of one of the city’s most colourful transgender activists, Carmen Rupe, who died in 2011.
“Cuba Street is considered by many to be the spiritual home of Wellington’s pride movement and a rainbow crossing sends a clear, strong, and very public message that Wellington is a city that is tolerant, inclusive and welcoming,” says mayor Justin Lester. “The desire for the crossing on Cuba Street has been a recurring piece of feedback from the community, both formally and informally.
“The project has the backing of local businesses, and is also supported by the LGBTQI Community.”
In February, young Wellington woman Melissa Toomey led an effort to mobilise Wellingtonians to back the idea of a rainbow crossing, garnering nearly 3,000 e-signatures.
In August, the Wellington City Council held its first-ever Rainbow Hui, bringing together the city’s LGBTQI groups to discuss common issues that impacted the various sects of the community. The Mayor says that the crossing is just step one in the city’s quest to become “more deliberately LGBTQI-friendly.”
“What we are also hearing from the community is that there is a pressing need for a range of initiatives around safe spaces and access to services in the central city, so we will be looking to work with the community, central city businesses and hospitality to make that a reality.”
The crossing is one of four Cuba Street intersections where in 2016, pedestrian crossing lights were adapted to show a green silhouette of Carmen Rupe.
There will be a marked sign at Cuba Street to denote the safest place for people to take selfies from, and share on social media under the hashtag #wellyrainbow.
The controlled crossing means that people will be able to cross only when the pedestrian lights turn green.
Wellington already has pedestrian crossings celebrating women's suffrage campaigner Kate Sheppard, gay rights advocate Carmen Rupe, and Victoria Cross hero Captain Alfred Shout.