Christmas effort lost for venue

Sandra Payne (left), Anne and Paul Townend inspect the 2007 Christmas wonderland above the...
Sandra Payne (left), Anne and Paul Townend inspect the 2007 Christmas wonderland above the Waimate Pharmacy. Photo by Sally Rae.
The Waimate District Council is being blamed for the cancellation of this year's Christmas Extravaganza in Waimate - but Mayor John Coles says the council is a not playing Scrooge.

Waimate might lose the annual attraction because of compliance issues.

For the past two years, a 16-room Christmas wonderland has been created in vacant office space above the Waimate Pharmacy, attracting 6600 visitors last Christmas, up on the about 3500 the year before.

Pharmacist Paul Townend said the Christmas Extravaganza would not be staged this year.

"After avoiding closure last Christmas and after months of dialogue with the Waimate District Council, we have been unable to come to a satisfactory resolution.

"The council's regulatory and planning department's change of use policy has made it impossible . . . to open this year," he said.

Interest had been shown from Oamaru, Timaru and Christchurch in relocating the event, although that would not happen this year, he said.

When contacted, Mr Coles said it was incorrect to say it was the change of use policy that had made it impossible to stage it - it was the provisions in the Government's Building Act 2004 Mr Townend needed to meet.

"It is our council's responsibility, as it is every territorial authority's job in New Zealand, to implement the Act."

The New Zealand Fire Service had become increasingly concerned the premises did not meet fire safety regulations and had asked the council to ensure Mr Townend complied with the Act.

The council had done everything possible to help, Mr Coles said.

Mr Townend said every letter he had received from the council referred to change of use and he maintained it was not a change of use.

The implications for the rest of the town were "huge," he said.

The event had created "huge PR" for the town and he was turning away bus loads of visitors keen to book for this Christmas.

"If they [the council] don't want it, then that's cool . . . we'll take it somewhere else," he said.


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