Some call him creepy, others call him a piece of cultural history - either way Auckland's giant Santa has been saved from early retirement.
The fate of the 18m, five-tonne Father Christmas that has watched over Auckland with his trusty reindeer since the 1960s was called into question this week when its owners said it could no longer afford to store, install and maintain the figure.
Downtown business association, Heart of the City, said it could no longer afford the $180,000 annual bill.
There was public outcry and upset as Aucklanders and visitors to the city recalled their fond memories of "Creepy Santa" winking at them from atop the old Farmers building on Hobson St and later from the Whitcoulls building on Queen St.
Yesterday afternoon, family-owned property development company Mansons TCLM came to the rescue and pledged three years of support so Santa would continue to watch over the city centre.
The company would use its own cranes and construction material to erect Santa each year and would call on business partners in the industry to also contribute.
Director Culum Manson told the Herald how the family wanted their children to be able to have the same memories of Christmas as they did.
"We all grew up with Santa and Christmas wouldn't be the same without the big fellow up on Whitcoulls corner," he said.
"We have got a lot of kids in the family and wanted to step up and make sure he can go up for at least the next three years.
"We are happy to pay for it and make sure it goes up. You can't have Auckland and Christmas without the big Santa."
SkyCity also pledged $50,000 for annual storage and associated costs.
Illustration / Rod Emmerson
The festive figure earned the affectionate moniker Creepy Santa due to its winking eye, distorted facial features and beckoning finger that were subject to a $100,000 makeover in 2009.
Prime Minister John Key was among those expressing their grief at Santa's potential demise.
"I'm going to join the group of people a bit saddened, actually, by Santa not being there," he said.
"He's been there since 1960, I think we've fixed the eye issues, so at the end of the day I for one will miss his presence not being there."
Mr Manson said he did not think Santa would need any more work done.
"He lost his wink and dodgy finger a year or two ago but I don't know if he needs an overhaul, he's in pretty good shape at the moment."
He said it was not necessarily Heart of the City's financial obligation to ensure the public could enjoy Santa.
"They deal with a lot of things in the city, not just Santa, and it's important that the community and wider business community, when these sorts of things occur, we all step in to help."
Heart of the City chairman Terry Gould said the generosity of Mansons and SkyCity meant the popular figure and his reindeer would resume their traditional position this Christmas.
When asked if the announcement of Santa's forced retirement was a deliberate ploy to attract funding, sponsorship manager Jane Stewart said: "HOTC had come to [the] point where the project was unsustainable at that level of cost but we have always been very open to the possibility of supporters stepping up to ensure Santa is retained."