Organisers of Auckland's Christmas parade are ditching its longstanding Santa, after the man behind the beard said he wouldn't hire women to play Father Christmas.
My Santa director Neville Baker last weekend told the Herald on Sunday he does 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.
For the past five years, Baker has personally played Santa on the main float in the Farmers Santa Parade, and was booked to do so again on Sunday.
However, in the wake of Neville's comments, parade organisers have announced it is 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 be not using their services for the parade," said Michael Barnett, chairman of the Children's Christmas Parade Trust which runs the parade.
However, last night, Baker said he had not heard from parade organisers and insisted he would turn up as usual.
"I'm not aware to any change in my arrangement. It's news to me I've got no communication of that," Baker said.
"I will be attending the parade on Sunday."
Pressed on whether he would be attending the parade as Farmers Santa, Baker replied: "Why else would I go to a parade? I'm not a kid."
Earlier this week Baker had defended his boys-only stance.
"It is my responsibility that the people hired to perform the character of Santa Claus are able to be as authentic as possible in order to provide the best possible experience for children."
Baker said he took this responsible seriously, and only hired those who he believed could perform a "believable and accurate" representation of a traditional Santa.
"For those reasons I have no plans to change the way I operate my business in the foreseeable future."
A spokesperson for the Human Rights Commission said sex was a "prohibited ground of discrimination" under the Act.
But there were a number of circumstances where it would not be unlawful to discriminate on the ground of gender, like if the role involved counselling on personal matters, or a combat role in armed forces.
"For reasons of authenticity" was also included in the list.
An earlier version of this story indicated that Farmers dropped its longstanding Santa for its Christmas parade. This was incorrect. Farmers is the naming rights sponsor of the parade. Employment decisions are made by the Auckland Children's Christmas Parade Trust. We apologise to Farmers for the error.