Auckland's famous Santa will not be back for Christmas.

Terry Gould, Heart of the City chairman, announced the news at the organisation annual general meeting in Auckland tonight

"We are going through a process of looking at each budget item line by line and adopting a measure of budget restraint until we get a full understanding of the financial information going forward.

"We've identified several areas where planned spending can be reviewed but we also feel this is a process which should be best carried out under the guards of the interim chief executive," Mr Gould said.


"However, due to timing issues, some legal decision making has been required. One of which means that the big Santa and his reindeer will not be appearing in its usual place on the Whitcoull's corner on Queen street this coming Christmas," he said.

The funding assistance the Heart of the City traditionally received from sources had been progressively withdrawn, Mr Gould said.

"This year the board has been determined that in the best interest of our members and the organisation, that sadly the Heart of the City simply cannot justify Santa's significant installation costs of approximately $180,000."

Mr Gould told the Herald the removal of Santa, due to the increasingly expensive installation costs, had been under discussion within the organisation for the last four years.

The decision to retire Santa was decided at a board meeting last week following a vote, Mr Gould said.

"The costs of installation have gone up over the years as the other sources of funding have actually been reduced.

"We use to get funding from the council, from the CBD advisory board and sone other sources. Over the past few years the funding has reduced to the point where the installation costs are just unacceptable.

"Sadly, we cannot justify $180,000 to out Santa up and bring him back down again," Mr Gould said.

The organisation had not discussed what would be done with Santa now it had been retired.

For now it would remain in its Kelston warehouse storage site, Mr Gould said.

Farmers' Hobson St branch, original home of the Queen St Santa Claus, closed its doors in 1991.

The fibre glass and steel structure mammoth weighs more than 4500kg and stood at a height of 18 metres. He was built in pieces in one of the halls at Epsom Showgrounds - now ASB Showgrounds.

Santa was first put up on the corner of the Farmers building on Hobson St in 1960 and remained there every Christmas for almost 30 years.

When the Farmers store closed down in 1990, Santa was moved to Manukau City Shopping Centre, where he remained until 1995, before he was retired and sold, in 1998, to businessman Stephen Hanford for $1.

He was restored and put up on the corner of Queen St's Whitcoulls building in the same year.

- additional reporting Susan Strongman

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