Auckland's giant Santa to be retired after nearly 60 years

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 10 Nov 2019, 9:57AM

Auckland's giant Santa to be retired after nearly 60 years

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 10 Nov 2019, 9:57AM

He was the world's largest fibreglass Santa when he was built in 1960, but Auckland's giant Santa will retire after this Christmas.

For the best part of 60 years, the big man has towered over Aucklanders each festive season, changed hands for $1, lost his wink and moving finger, and crowned the world's creepiest Christmas ornament.

But after being saved from retirement in 2014, the central city's business association Heart of the City says this time it's for real. Santa will appear one last time atop the Farmers building in Queen St tomorrow before hanging up his red coat for good on January 10.

"We know Santa is well-loved by many Aucklanders," Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said, "but sadly, for a combination of reasons, it feels the time is right to retire this model."

The reasons include the need for a fresh paint of the weary Father Christmas, his 18-metre, five-tonne frame costs $200,000 to store, maintain and assemble, and he needs a new home to rest up.

In 2014, SkyCity and family-owned property development company Mansons TCLM committed three years of funding support.

Beck said Mansons had gone way beyond what they agreed to do, but with no confirmation beyond this year, Heart of the City made the call to retire Santa.

"For us to continue with Santa on our own is unsustainable," she said.

From 1960, when Santa was installed on the Farmers flagship store on Hobson St, to the current day, where he sits above the Farmers store on Queen St, Beck said Santa was a joyous part of Auckland's Christmas tradition so it was important to give the cheery figure a fitting send-off.

"We want to provide Aucklanders with the opportunity to say goodbye to Santa. Many of us have fond memories of him," Beck said.

Heart of the City is inviting people to share their memories and photos of Santa which can be uploaded to heartofthecity.co.nz, emailed to [email protected] or shared on Instagram and Facebook using #FarewellSanta. They will be published on a dedicated page on heartofthecity.co.nz/farewellsanta.

Beck said Santa's retirement had prompted a rethink of how to celebrate Christmas in a changing city like Auckland, but it may take a few years.

Will there be another Santa?

"I can't answer that now because we need to think about how we do celebrate Christmas. It's important we don't lose all the traditions of Santa but how we represent that from next year onwards we haven't confirmed yet. It may or may not have another Santa," Beck said.

Mayor Phil Goff said Santa had been an iconic figure and there would be a degree of sadness about his retirement, but accepted the decision by Heart of the City.

Opinion was divided on the streets of the CBD yesterday on his demise.

Sandra, from Dunedin, said the Santa statue was ugly and needed to go.

"We've seen it on TV for years and years; and just cannot believe they keep putting it up," she said.

Sarah, 17 from Auckland, said it was Santa's eyes that were the problem.

"One eye is kinda misty and it gives you a creepy, eerie vibe," she said.

"The idea is nice, how it announces Christmas to the city – but I think it is time to retire Santa."

Aleisha, a Wellingtonian visiting Auckland for a concert, said the statue was a local icon, despite being creepy.

"I think he is creepy in an endearing kind of way," she said. "He is part of the furniture."

However, Santa still has fans who see him as an important part of the Christmas tradition.

One woman told the Herald on Sunday she had some reservations about his hazy eyes but was still sad to see him go.

"I think it is lovely because it is a regular occurrence, it's traditional," she said. "He does need a bit of work though; his eyes look like they have cataracts."

Tiva, another Auckland woman, described herself as a dedicated Santa fan.

She has attended the annual Santa Parade with her grandchildren ever since she moved to Auckland eight years ago.

"Every Christmas, I come down with my mokopuna to see Santa and we are always so excited about it."

Tiva strongly disagreed that Santa was creepy and said he was an important part of the Christmas season.

"What's so creepy about him? He is all dressed up and has a lovely face. He just represents the happy season and people should see it as a happy representation, not a creepy one," she said.

"Why would we take him out? Christmas is constant; year to year it doesn't change."

Ten years ago, Santa's moving finger, beckoning children to come and see him, and his winking eye were replaced with static ones.

Hasting's loved, and occasionally loathed, giant 8m high, 4.5m wide, 700kg Santa is also putting in a final Christmas appearance before he is put into retirement.

Put simply, "the old fella doesn't take well to wind", New World Hastings store owner Jeff Yates said.

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