Lighting up Christmas proves costly

The council spent one-third of the region's festive budget on Picton's Christmas trees last year, Marlborough District Council assets and services manager Mark Wheeler says.

The council spent almost $20,000 on two $9500 three-metre-tall decorated Christmas trees for Picton's Main Street out of its $59,000 festive budget last year.

Council reserves and amenities officer Robert Hutchinson ordered the trees from the Celebrations Group supply company, which ordered them from a company in China after seeing them being used in Wellington and Auckland and viewing products on competitor's websites.

Mr Wheeler said it was not known how much time went in to the decision.

But he was confident it was the best buy.

"Our resources staff are always on the lookout for better buys, but it does take time."

The council had bought goods from the Celebration Group in the past and the company guaranteed the quality of the products which had to be imported, which Mr Wheeler said was a bonus.

"They've got to be able to stand up to severe conditions.

"The trees have to take abuse from the weather, and possibly from people - it's not like buying one for your lounge."

The value of the lights fell below the amount required for a council purchase to be put to tender.

The trees, which are expected to last at least seven years, were bought out of a total community facilities rates revenue stream of $5 million. The company's website,, states it "offers an extensive range of party products" and "specialises in commercial Christmas decoration for shopping centres, Main Street, and entertainment venues".

Mr Wheeler said another idea put forward by residents was to light a tree in Nelson Square, Picton.

But this would blow the budget at a total estimated cost of $87,000.

Lights in the the tree would need a transformer on a power pole to run them because there was not an adequate power supply. Setting up the transformer was estimated to cost about $70,000, the lights would cost about $11,000 and installing them would cost about $5000.

"I know it sounds like a crazy amount, but that's what it was when it went to council about 2005.

"Buying the lights would be about $11,000, but it was needing the transformer that killed it."

The lights would need to be run by a power transformer that would need to be connected to the main underground electricity supply.

The Marlborough Express