Christmas decorations merely on hold

Dunedin City Council community development and events manager Joy Gunn is surrounded by council-owned Christmas wreaths and garlands. Photo: Linda Robertson
Dunedin City Council community development and events manager Joy Gunn is surrounded by council-owned Christmas wreaths and garlands. Photo: Linda Robertson
The Dunedin City Council says it has no plans to ''get rid of Christmas'', despite the lack of festive decorations in city streets.

Main street decorations were being installed in the Octagon and George St last week when high winds struck, damaging one garland - a type of decorative wreath - and threatening to send others flying.

''We were concerned that they would fall. If they fell and hit someone, obviously that's a bit of an issue,'' council community development and events manager Joy Gunn said yesterday.

As a result, contractors had removed the decorations and were now consulting MetService ''just to get a sense of the long-range forecast over the next wee while'', she said.

''There's no use putting them up and taking them down, putting them up, taking them down.

''As soon as we can get a reasonable sense of it being safe to put them back up again, we will, and it will look Christmassy again.''

She could not give a time for their reinstatement, except to say ''I can guarantee before Christmas''.

The Octagon was already sporting a 10m-high Christmas tree - complete with multilingual ''Merry Christmas'' message.

The tree, which was officially lit up last Friday, was ''fine, obviously, in terms of its stability'', she said.

But some serious thought would have to be put into the garlands, as high winds seemed to be becoming more common at this time of year, she said.

''We have to think about how we do things next year - whether we need to think about replacing garlands with something else.''

The absence of decorations had incensed some online commentators, who said it added to the ''bloody dismal'' state of the central city and was a ''disgrace''.

One suggested the DCC should invest in bigger, better lights and decorations, while others suggested the city had bigger problems to worry about or pointed out it was only just December.

Ms Gunn said the DCC had a $40,000 budget for Christmas decorations, including installation, maintenance and replacement, and regularly replaced those showing their age.

The Octagon Christmas tree had been donated in 2004, but was due for replacement, which could cost about $70,000, she said.

The council could consider investing in better decorations in future, but would need to canvass public opinion, she said.

''Everything comes with a cost and if ratepayers are prepared to pay more ... I'm not against looking at it.''

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan had no problem with the delayed decorations, saying it was ''at least encouraging they're trying to look after the city's health and safety''.

''We're talking, at the moment, December 4. There's a long way to Christmas.''

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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