Council's Christmas cut prompts backlash

MARC GREENHILL AND LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 12:39 26/06/2014
Jamie Gough
Jane Wyles
OPPOSED CUT: Cr Jamie Gough is urging businesses in particular to help bring some cheer to the city by donating to his Save Christmas in Christchurch fund.

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Christmas may be back on the menu in Christchurch.

The city council yesterday axed the $55,000 it had budgeted for Christmas decorations in a bid to cost costs, but the controversial move divided councillors and has prompted a public backlash.

Harlequin Public House owner Johnny Schwass told The Press he did not want to see the decorations canned.

''The Christmas decorations have to go up, because my daughter wants to go and have a look at them,'' he said.

Schwass said he had messaged Cr Jamie Gough, a neighbour of his central-city restaurant, to suggest ways the funds could be raised privately.

''Between people I know and people Jamie knows, we could probably raise the exorbitant sum of $55,000. I know a couple of friends who have a scissor-lift and we could probably drive around in the night putting the Christmas decorations up," Schwasssaid.

''People were engaging in negative and positive comments, but no-one actually said, 'Let's find a solution', which is what I do everyday in [my] business life.''

Gough opposed the cut and is now trying to raise the money through a Givealittle fundraising website.

He is urging businesses in particular to help bring some cheer to the city by donating to the fund.

"Every bit helps, no matter how small,'' Gough said on his Facebook page.

"Let's raise this money so we can decorate the city's streets for the 2014 festive season like it should be.''

Last night, another Givealittle fundraising page was created by a person with the username ''deborah'', who has made the only donation so far - $1.

Christchurch talkback host Chris Lynch was this morning scathing of the council's decision, which he described as ''mean spirited'', and the majority of callers to his Newstalk ZB show were equally dismayed.

The council could make better savings by cutting ties with $2000-a-day Crown manager Doug Martin and ditching overseas trips to maintain Sister Cities ties, he said.

Lynch said a council source described the savings as ''fiddling the books while Rome burns''.

A ''Revive Christmas in Christchurch'' Facebook page today had 50 likes.

The page encouraged Cantabrians and companies to ''create their own cheer''.

''Unite together and place a Xmas decoration in your front garden, shop window, or attach one to your letterbox, fence, or company sign this year to brighten up this awesome city,'' it said.

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Schwass said as a percentage of the council's expenditure, the saving was ''probably not going to make a huge difference'' and even ''Scrooges'' would likely gain some enjoyment from Christmas.

''Everyone knows when it is, everyone looks forward to it, it's a very special time of year for a lot of people - and it just seems to be a bit of a slap in the face,'' he said.

- The Press

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