A PROPOSAL to split Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras into two will be put to members at next month’s annual general meeting (AGM).

The “purposefully controversial” plan would see the Parade and Fair Day given over to Sydney Council with Mardi Gras retaining control of the party.

The explanatory notes for the motion, which the Star Observer has obtained, say the Mardi Gras model is broken.

The document states factors such as a reduction in the number of attendees at the party, the police presence on site, high ticket prices and the “engagement of trust of the community” with the organisers has impacted on Mardi Gras’ ability to make a profit and financially support the parade and Fair Day.

“Mardi Gras has been slowly dying for at least four years,” the document states.

“This is not the fault of any individual or group of directors, staff or volunteers, but is a reality of the model that we use to make a profit.”

The motion, proposed by one-time Mardi Gras board member Josh Keech and former chair David Imrie, comes following the recent admission that Mardi Gras lost $177,152 on the 2014 season compared to a near $46,000 profit the previous year.

“It is important to note that this paper is purposely controversial,” the documents says, but there “is a significant risk that Mardi Gras will lose its ability to operate, and this is a direct result of its inability to pay for a world-class parade in an environment where a profit-making party and festival is not a reliable source of revenue.”

“We need to change if we are to continue our ability to be fabulous, proud and visible, and this is an opportunity to explore,” the statement adds.

Under the plan, Mardi Gras would provide Sydney Council with a financial contribution towards the two events while also being mandated to donating half its profits to community causes.

The proposal states Sydney Council has a track record of delivering “world-class, high quality and sustainable community events,” from New Year’s Eve to the Chinese New Year.

However, Sydney Council has distanced itself from the plans with a spokesperson telling the Star Observer: “The future of Mardi Gras is a decision for its board and members.

“The city has not received a formal request from Mardi Gras to take over the festival operations.

“For many years the City of Sydney has played an important supporting role, providing cash and value in-kind sponsorship assistance to Mardi Gras, and consistently championing the festival.”

Over the last two years, Sydney Council has given Mardi Gras some $400,000 in cash sponsorship and $252,700 of in-kind support.

In a statement to the Star Observer, Mardi Gras co-chairs Paul Savage and Siri Kommedahl and chief executive Michael Rolik said there were “many passionate people in our membership,” all of who were encouraged to participate.

“This motion will be presented to the members at the AGM along with any other items of business submitted by members,” they said.

“A change program to transform the business model of the organisation was presented by the board and management to the members at the recent EGM, and a planning workshop was held to further develop this business model. The board will present the outcomes of this process to the members for consideration at the AGM.”

The Mardi Gras AGM takes place on Saturday August 23 at ACON’s offices in Surry Hills.


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