Levin's iconic Santa Claus could be saved from "disposal" with the establishment of a new trust trading on community goodwill and Christmas spirit.
The proposed Friends of Santa Trust (Frost) aimed to arrest control of Santa from Horowhenua District Council staff and hand him back to the community again, amid runaway compliance and installation costs.
The cost of Santa's erection to ratepayers had sky-rocketed from nothing to $45,000 in one Christmas, with projected costs of $13,000 for the following Christmas.
Establishing Frost has been mooted by a group of HDC councillors after receiving a briefing paper asking them to okay costs or submit to Santa's disposal.
HDC councillor Sam Jennings said there was a will among councillors to form a trust as a common-sense solution to take ownership of Santa and ease ratepayer burden.
"I'm outraged at the high level of cost. It didn't look like prudent use of ratepayer dollars and there were other councillors of a similar mind," he said.
He said Frost would look to leverage off community spirit and the support of volunteers and would look to oversee Christmas lights, too.
"Santa will be here for Christmas," he said.
Meanwhile, being overlooked for Santa's erection in favour of a preferred HDC contractor didn't go down well with Levin man Dave Sayles, who had erected Santa Claus every Christmas in Levin for 16 years - no charge.
"I did it for the children," he said.
Two years ago Sayles was told by HDC that "my services were no longer required". He was now stunned to learn how much it was now costing ratepayers.
"As a ratepayer this is your money. Our money," he said.
Sayles had already been approached by Frost to help. He said he didn't hesitate, although at 75 he had recently handed his Levin Crane Hire business over to his son Callum, although he said he would be keen to support Frost too.
When Auckland hit headlines in 2009 for spending $55,000 on their giant Santa, it was proudly noted that Levin was able to maintain its Santa through contributions from the local community.
Santa originally came to town in 2001 after former Levin couple Malcolm and Mary Russell saw him in a paddock and bought him. Prior to that, Santa had graced Hay's department store in Christchurch for almost 40 years.
In poor state, he was transported to Levin in four parts. Parts were rotten and aluminium needed replacing.
The Russells always received generous support from the Levin community. Levin man Peter La Roche put Santa together and he was erected at Levin's Adventure Park each Christmas, before moving north to New World carpark in recent years.
When the Russells gifted Santa to HDC in 2018 it took full responsibility for his erection and ensuring all legislative requirements were met, including health and safety.
Since taking over, HDC had spent $45,843 on Santa. There was were numerous structural assessments and reviews costing $9440, $3850, and $1452 respectively, with the structural work billed at $7493.
Costs associated with putting Santa up and taking him down were set at $1705 and $625, with associated transport costs were $400 and $1870. It had cost an additional $800 to bolt Santa to the trailer.
Santa had also undergone an extensive facelift too, with $9753 spent on cleaning, priming, fibreglass and painting his body, $600 on face paint, and $521 and $688 on washing down and further painting. Paint test pots cost $126.
Repairs to Santa were set at $4767. Other expenses listed were PVC trailer skirt and track ($782), installation and documentation costs ($625), and Santa variations ($720).
Meanwhile, estimated costs for his next erection included a trailer assessment ($2000), installation and transport ($5000), further washing and painting ($2000), and further structural assessments and repairs ($5000).
HDC said in a prepared statement that council officers were unaware of any formal discussion regarding the establishment of a trust.
It said should any change of ownership take place council would work with the new owners to ensure all information associated with Santa is transferred, including the need for ongoing structural assessments and repair work.
"Any new owner would need to accept complete liability if issues are not addressed and any safety incidents were to occur during transportation or installation," it said.
"Due to the complexities of the structure council officers are concerned about potential health and safety risks to pedestrians and people in vehicles if the Santa structure should fail for any reason during display or transportation to the site."