OPINION: The Southland Santa Parade was in danger of getting pretty PC for a while there.
Misplaced protective instincts led to the bright idea that the giant teddy bear in one of the most popular floats should sport a pink cap.
This, see, would clarify the gender and satisfy any concerns that the children waving happily from within its splayed, furry limbs might be, at least symbolically, imperilled by the dangers inherent in a giant male lap.
An abundance of caution is one thing, but that was just silly. A more moderate view prevailed and the perfectly benign bear, hatless and all, has proven a popular feature of many a subsequent parade.
It was well after that minor matter that Robert John Ashby took on the role of parade co-ordinator but his resignation this week was promptly accepted for reasons that have nothing to do with an excess of PC delicacy.
He has just been convicted of having child sex images. He says these had been on a pen drive he had picked up when he left previous employment and he maintains he had not looked at the drives in the five years they had been in his possession, until last year.
However his depiction of this being essentially an innocent mistake comes up against the small matter that police found Ashby had used websites to search for objectionable material between June 2012 and May 2013.
Although Ashby was not directly involved with the young participants of what has become one of the south's largest family events, his position was untenable and the charitable trust that organises the parade is now in the market for a replacement.
We don't want to go around projecting sexuality on to parade teddy bears. Nor do we really want to have to run police checks on anyone in any position that might ever entail contact with children. Maintaining the right balance of vigilance is not always a straightforward matter.
But it's worth noting that Ashby had sought name suppression. Thank heavens - or, on a slightly less elevated plane, the judge - that it wasn't granted.
- The Southland Times
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