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Christmas in Square seeks more festive cheer

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 20/11/2012

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Christmas in the Square is struggling to ensure that the show goes on.

Enjoyed by up to 10,000 people in each of the past 16 years, the event run by the Palmerston North Christian Leaders' Association wants city council recognition that is a core event, with a budget to match.

But for this year, the best the council can offer is an extra $10,000, on top of the $15,000 already approved, to support a celebration that costs up to $60,000 to stage.

Event director Duncan McCann, who is also a city councillor, said the Christmas concert cost almost as much to put on as the similar-sized New Year's Eve party in The Square, for which Destination Manawatu receives about $75,000 from ratepayers.

"We are not looking for parity, but for something that's reasonable. It's effectively unsustainable for an organisation like this to continue in a voluntary capacity, and effectively pay for the privilege."

So far this year the church groups have $34,000 raised, but need about $60,000 to ensure a fully-produced outdoor concert with big screen, stage, sound and lighting.

With less than $45,000, it would have to consider moving indoors to The Regent on Broadway.

Life Church senior pastor Ralph Sutherland told the council's finance and performance committee yesterday the event was a successful merger of church and state.

"Christmas is for everyone, not just the church community. But we have been mystified why this is not included as a core community event."

Last year the concert's budget was boosted by about $10,000 by sharing the day with the Christmas Parade run by Destination Manawatu.

This year the parade will be on December 1, while the concert organisers have opted for the weekend closest to Christmas, when the bad-weather alternative of moving indoors to the Regent is available.

"Having both events on one day last year was an experiment, and it was a judgment call that it became an incredibly long day for families with young children," said Mr McCann.

Deputy mayor Jim Jefferies led the call for the council to find an extra $10,000 for the concert this year, and to consider boosting its funding and making it a core community event from next year.

And Cr Lew Findlay also spoke up for the free community event that allowed anyone to participate, even if they could not afford any other Christmas celebration.

Cr Adrian Broad said the event was part of fulfilling the council's goal to create a great place to raise a family, and he did not want to lose it because of lack of money.

The extra $10,000 was supported by the committee, ensuring it will be held outdoors.

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- Manawatu Standard

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