Controversial Santa reinstated for Auckland parade

Tom Dillane, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sunday, 2 December 2018, 10:08AM
Neville Baker was originally sacked by the parade board over controversial comments he'd made in an interview. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Neville Baker was originally sacked by the parade board over controversial comments he'd made in an interview. (Photo / NZ Herald)

The man who was last week replaced as Santa in Auckland's Christmas parade has been reinstated at the last minute for tomorrow's event.

Parade organisers had parted ways with Neville Baker after he made what they labelled "inappropriate" comments.

The parade along Auckland's Queen St was postponed last Sunday due to poor weather, but had been scheduled to proceed tomorrow with a new person in the role of Santa.

However, Baker told the Herald tonight he was told he would be reinstated and would appear tomorrow as Santa in the parade, as he has the previous five years.

Baker read what he said was a joint prepared statement confirming the reinstatement.

He added: "Putting all this behind me, it's all about the children, it's all about the parade and making sure that goes ahead."

The original controversy began on November 18, when the Herald on Sunday published an interview with Baker, who said he did not cast any female applicants for the role of 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.

In the wake of Baker's comments, parade organisers announced on November 24 they were no longer employing their Santa through the My Santa company.

"We are distancing ourselves from this company. We found his comments to be inappropriate and unnecessary and will not be using their services for the parade," said Michael Barnett, chairman of the Children's Christmas Parade Trust which runs the parade.

Barnett said Baker's comments "did not sound like the values of a family parade".

The organisers' decision to part ways with Baker was however extremely contentious. A Herald online poll of 34,000 readers found 90 per cent believed Baker should not have been removed.

Nearly 2000 people also took to the Herald's Facebook page to comment on the decision, with the majority critical.

Farmers has been sponsoring the parade since 1934 as a gift to the children of Auckland.

Sunday's parade

  • Starts at 1pm on Sunday, you can view the parade route here
    • All inner city roads are closed between 11am and 5pm on Sunday 2nd December 2018. People are advised to get into the city before 11am to avoid frustration with traffic and parking
    • Free parking available at Auckland Transport's Downtown and Victoria St parking buildings (exit before 2pm and after 6pm will incur a fee)
    • Bus, train and ferry schedules are here


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