Council takes the cheer out of Christmas

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 11/12/2013

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There are no baubles or tinsel in sight but never fear, rubbish bags will help get Wellingtonians in the Christmas spirit.

Wellington City Council is being accused of playing the Grinch this Christmas, after it retired - but did not replace - festive decorations around the city, including the Midland Park tree.

The council says it is simply redirecting its holiday spirit by holding concerts and giving out presents to passers-by, including sports tickets and rubbish bags.

But Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said last night that she wanted fewer Christmas presents and more of the spirit of Christmases past.

Her spokesman said she was keen to see the Midland Park tree back up, and had asked staff to see what they could do. Council staff were also investigating a partnership with a company to provide more street decorations throughout the year.

In previous years the council has put up a Christmas tree in Midland Park, and flags around the CBD.

Council spokesman Richard MacLean said the flags had become too faded to use, making them "arguably not very Christmassy", while the tree had been retired from service because it was "clapped out and not looking good".

Instead, the council was aiming its $20,000 yuletide budget at a series of "Christmas presents" - lunchtime concerts on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at which council-themed gifts were handed out.

They included tickets to the Hurricanes and the Pulse, native plants, e-readers, quake-preparedness kits "and even the gift that every loved one will want this year - a year's supply of rubbish bags", MacLean said.

The lack of festive trimmings has been noticed by some - on Facebook Brett Hawthorne questioned the lack of decorations, labelling the decision Grinch-like.

"I appreciate that there are costs to be saved. However, the council seems happy to spend money on other events, yet has decided to ‘cancel Christmas' without asking the ratepayers how we feel about it."

Roseneath playwright Amanda Stone said decorations would be better than the Christmas present scheme, as more people would benefit. "Whoop-de-do - how many people are going to see those [concerts]?"

The present-giving started last week, and the next session will be held tomorrow at Midland Park at midday.

MacLean said the council would review in the new year how the scheme had gone.

Meanwhile, Telecom said yesterday it had pulled the plug on its giant waterfront tree, which had previously lit up in sequence with trees in Auckland and Christchurch.

Like the council, it said it was redirecting its funds.

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It had been spending about $400,000 on each of its giant trees, and had decided to put that money instead into wifi hot spots and coverage over the holiday period, after consultation with customers.

"They're more interested in us spending money on things like keeping them connected," public affairs manager Conor Roberts said.

The trees would be offered to councils for free.

- The Dominion Post

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