Mardi Gras has secured more than $500,000 in financial and in-kind support from the City of Sydney and the New South Wales Premier’s department.

The City of Sydney agreed last week to spend $188,327 in sponsorship on the Launch, Fair Day and Parade. This includes waiver of hiring costs, cleaning and provision of parade route barricades.

The Premier’s department is providing user-pays exemptions for state-funded services worth $320,000.

New Mardi Gras co-chair Steph Sands said the City’s funding was a little bit above what the company was expecting to receive.

We were hoping for this, Sands said. It was the deal we wanted to strike and it certainly helps us.

Sands told Sydney Star Observer New Mardi Gras would not be able to put on the three major events without the government’s support.

A New Mardi Gras spokesperson told the Star the City of Sydney’s financial support was 30 percent higher than the combined 2004 support of the City of Sydney and South Sydney councils.

After the two councils amalgamated, all major candidates in the lead-up to 2004’s lord mayoral elections promised to provide higher levels of support for Mardi Gras.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore was quickly criticised for approving the funding -“ a Daily Telegraph editorial called the decision to debate it at a special council meeting undemocratic and warned the council against becoming a lapdog to any minority group.

Moore sent an email to residents this week saying the support for the iconic and core events that help build community, are open to everyone, attract a large cross-section of the community and are free was largely in kind and directed to ensuring the amenity and safety of these events.

I am proud to have been association with Mardi Gras since 1986 when I was invited to be one of the parade judges, Moore wrote. I was also among the first group of MPs to join the Mardi Gras parade in 1992.

With the official Toybox Mardi Gras after-party selling out this week, and Mardi Gras party ticket sales slightly higher than this time last year, Sands said the organisation’s finances were in order for this season and the future.

We’re looking great, she said. Obviously we’re financially solid, and provided we have a good turn-out to the party we should be in a good position for the future.

Meantime, planning is under way for the Saturday 5 March parade. New Mardi Gras is offering grants of up to $2,000 for a small number of would-be parade entrants, to boost the production values of the parade and give groups lacking resources a chance to get involved.

Co-chair Mark Orr said grant applications were welcome from individuals, groups and organisations from Sydney and everywhere else.

Parade entry applications and grants information can be found on the Mardi Gras website at www.mardigras.org.au. Grants applications close Monday 31 January and parade entries close Monday 7 February.

New Mardi Gras is also holding an information and recruitment session for anyone interested in joining the parade’s leading float or the Mardi Gras marching group on Saturday 29 January at the Stonewall cocktail bar. Drop in to the Stonewall between noon and 4pm for more information.

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