The long-serving Santa whose controversial comments about women got him sacked from the Auckland Santa Parade last year will not be featuring in this year's parade down Queen St.
Neville Baker, who played the jolly fat man for five years, was ditched last year after telling the Herald on Sunday he wouldn't hire women as Santas, but he was then reinstated at the last minute.
However, Baker won't be filling the red suit at this year's parade - his place atop the float filled by a longstanding parade volunteer.
Baker, director of Santa hire agency My Santa, told the Herald last year he wouldn't cast any female applicants as Santa.
"They apply, and you say, 'have you misread the ad?' Putting politically correct things to one side, there's a certain character people expect to find when they come to meet Santa," Baker said.
"We employ Santa's Little Helpers, and they wear a little skirt and top ... but I wouldn't put a guy in a skirt and top — right?"
Baker was sacked from his role following the interview. Michael Barnett, chairman of the Children's Christmas Parade Trust, which runs the parade, said they were "distancing ourselves from this company".
"We found his comments to be inappropriate and unnecessary and will not be using their services for the parade."
The public outcry was swift, with 90 per cent of Herald readers polled saying he should not have been sacked. After the parade was postponed due to bad weather, Baker was rehired.
He told the Herald it was "all about the children" and he was putting the saga behind him.
A spokeswoman for the parade trust board said there had been a "change of direction" with this year's parade. A statement from the board said the parade was a not-for-profit and engaged volunteers wherever possible.
"This year we are thrilled the role of Santa will be filled by a longstanding parade volunteer and we look forward to putting on another wonderful Christmas experience for families in Auckland on November 24," parade general manager Pam Glaser said.
But this year, Baker told the Herald, he could not have played Santa anyway as he had a prior commitment at a "big promo" in Australia.
He didn't know if the Auckland parade organisers had approached his company, but said: "I can't be in two places at once."
Neville Baker played Santa in Auckland's Christmas Parade for five years but this year his services are no longer required. Photo / Michael Craig
Asked if he would miss being in the parade, he said last year's had "knocked me for a six".
"You're sitting out in the boiling hot sun, there's no shade on top of that float, you're wearing a Santa suit and you cook ... On a hot summer's day that's a killer."
Asked if he had any advice for this year's Santa, Baker said he had enough problems training his own Santas.
"Every Santa's different. I've got 30 Santas and they all put their own character in the role. Santa's a Santa - there's no right and wrong way to be Santa."
Baker said he had more women on his crew this year than last year and there had been numerous demands from clients who wanted to hire a Santa and Mrs Claus.
"We provide what our clients want."