Opinion: Christchurch Santa parade now free of charge, needs more council support

A Givealittle page - givealittle.co.nz/org/christchurchchristmasshowparade - has been started for...
A Givealittle page - givealittle.co.nz/org/christchurchchristmasshowparade - has been started for the Christchurch Christmas parade. Photo: Givealittle
OPINION: The weather might be nuts but the people running the Santa parade in Christchurch seem to have come to their senses, and realised that a $15-a-head indoor Christmas concert, instead of a free Santa Parade outside somewhere was never going to fly.

You'll remember the outcry last month when this concert idea was announced. That it would be held at the Christchurch Arena, you'd have to buy tickets to go, and that the days of the free Santa Parade in Christchurch were pretty much over.

It was a barmy idea. I thought it was barmy then and I still thought it was barmy right up until today when it started to look like the Christmas Parade Trust was having a change of heart.

Which it has, and has announced a different plan which I think is certainly a win on the commonsense front.

The parade will now be free and it's going to be outside. As it should be. But instead of winding its way down Riccarton Rd - as it has in recent years - or through the centre of town, like it used to back in the pre-earthquake days, it's going to be held at the A&P Showgrounds.

The brilliant thing about Santa parades is that anyone and everyone can go.

Anyone can rock up to them, it doesn't matter what part of town you live in or what the family budget is like, because they are a truly public event and it costs nothing to go.

So, of course, it got peoples' backs up last month when we were told that it wouldn't be free anymore, and anyone and everyone wouldn't just be able to turn up on the day and enjoy it.

If you think things are tough financially now - think ahead to December when making ends meet gets even harder for so many people. Presents, holidays - the pressure to spend.

So the announcement today that the Santa parade is going to be free and it's going to be held outside is brilliant news.

But I know it's also going to create a bit of a nightmare on the financial front because it's going to be free and it actually costs quite a bit of money to run a parade and keep things like the floats up-to-scratch and all that. I gather the floats are currently in a bit of disrepair.

With the parade organisers giving in to the public backlash, they're not going to have the revenue coming in from the $15-a-head tickets and they're out of pocket by about $185,000 and they need to find that money somewhere.

The Christchurch City Council has given the parade trust a $45,000 grant - which is quite a bit less than what it used to spend on the parade.

In 2017, it was $100,000. In 2018, that went down to $65,000. And now it's at $45,000.

Other councils around the country have a bit more skin in the game. In recent years, Dunedin council has put in about $70,000 and Auckland around $60,000. Wellington council takes the cake, though, spending $270,000 on a two-day event which includes two "mini Santa parades".

I'm not going to demand that Christchurch City Council spend $270k on a Santa parade, but I do think it could be helping out a bit more than it is at the moment.

I'm not talking about just writing out a cheque. I think the city council should be underwriting the event, with some pretty rigorous strings attached.

What it would say to the parade organisers is "f you can't get the money from elsewhere, we guarantee to contribute up to $185,000", which is the gap in funding between the grant the council's already given to the parade and the overall costs.

The parade trust would need to show the council a thorough, professional, fundraising and sponsorship plan - clearly demonstrating how it is going to do everything it can possibly do to find the money it needs elsewhere, and how the extra money from the council would just be a last resort.

Then next year, if the parade did a good job with the finances - the council could consider doing the same thing again.

That way, the parade organisers could press-on with confidence - knowing that whether it's sponsorship or council money, or a mix of both, they'd know that they could get on with the job of putting on the type of parade the people of Christchurch have said they want and deserve.

The council's already given a $45,000 grant - I'm saying it should agree to stump up another $185,000 if the parade organisers can't find the money elsewhere.

-By John MacDonald, Canterbury Mornings host on Newstalk ZB Christchurch



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