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Councillors to fight for Auckland Santa Parade

It looks likely the Auckland Farmers Santa Parade will gain the support it needs to secure ongoing funding with early signs indicating Auckland councillors are willing to fight for it.

Auckland Council’s Community Development and Safety Committee was updated Thursday on options for its financial support of the parade, which attracts around 100,000 spectators to downtown Auckland.

While opinions were divided among councillors about where the funding would come from, there was unanimous support to ensure proactive measures were taken to protect the event’s future.

The parade made headlines last November after Newsroom reported that ATEED, the council’s events and economic development arm, had withdrawn its future financial support for the annual event due to changes to its funding criteria.

Last year ATEED supported the parade with $45,000, the council’s Community Development and Safety Committee contributed $15,000 and the Waitemata Local Board put in a further $5000.

The parade, run by the independent Auckland Children’s Christmas Parade Trust, operates on a budget of $900,000 and receives $1.5 million in-kind support including media sponsorship, storage, legal support and volunteer hours.  

ATEED’s general manager of destination Steve Armitage said the Santa parade no longer fit the agency’s new 2018-2025 major events strategy and, as a community event, it was better suited to be funded by council.

“Forty-five thousand dollars is absolutely nothing for ATEED in terms of their America’s Cup budget, or any other big budget they’ve got - it’s small bickies."

The decision has left Auckland Council’s events department with the funding responsibility, however Auckland Council manager events David Burt told the meeting the Regional Events Fund (the most appropriate to support the parade) has already allocated its remaining $192,000 of funding for the financial year.

Burt put forward several options including: asking the parade to secure increased corporate funding; reviewing the size and scale of the event; allocating more money from the Waitematā Local Board; putting the parade forward for annual plan funding; as well as suggesting the councillors challenge ATEED’s decision.

The latter two points gained the most traction with the committee, requesting ATEED review its decision and, in anticipation of the same result, that provisions be made so that the parade can be put forward for annual plan funding. 

Councillor Alf Filipaina suggested the committee put forward the parade for both the annual plan and Long Term Plan funding.

“We just need to be ready. I don’t know if it will come back changed at all. Let the 21 [councillors] decide, plus with the Annual Plan let our community decide.”

Councillor and committee chair Cathy Casey said she “felt revulsion” about ATEED’s decision to discontinue funding, and made a spirited argument for the parade.

“Forty-five thousand dollars is absolutely nothing for ATEED in terms of their America’s Cup budget, or any other big budget they’ve got - it’s small bickies.

“It’s just not fair. I just feel outraged and when I’m outraged, I have to do something.”

Conversely, councillors Daniel Newman and Richard Hills made a point of reminding their colleagues that while ATEED may be a convenient scapegoat, they all had a role to play when they signed off on ATEED’s new direction.

“What did people think was going to happen when we chose to back the destination strategy? When we backed the targeted accommodation rate? There are consequences to the decisions that are actually taken at a political level around the governing body table,” said Newman. 

While the next Auckland Farmers Santa Parade will take place well after the next election, it’s likely to receive special attention from councillors as they aim to stay on the right side of public opinion.

Parade patron and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, who was absent from the meeting last year, told he supported the parade.

“I want council to continue to support the Santa Parade. It is an Auckland institution which tens of thousands of Aucklanders flock to each year.”

While the parade organisers have been in contact with the Mayor, they have had no assurances they’ll be funded.

Council offers and ATEED will report back to the committee in four weeks.

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