Monday, February 10, 2020

The Giant Santa of Famers, Queen Street, Auckland, New Zealand

Took this picture with my iPhone XS last year, November 2019.  This is the largest Santa display in 3D in the southern hemisphere and proudly located in New Zealand!

In 1960 Farmers erected a giant Santa on the front of their building on the corner of Hobson Street and Wyndham Street in Auckland. The fibreglass and steel tubing structure weighed over five tons (4535 kg) and stood at a height of about 59 ft (18 metres). It featured a winking eye and beckoning finger, which were intended to tempt customers into the store below.
Levin Santa

The Levin (formerly Christchurch) Santa

The giant Santa was erected on the Farmers' Hobson Street store each Christmas for 30 years. Then in 1990 the store was put up for sale and the possibility arose that this would be Santa's 'last public airing'. This was the same year Farmers turned over responsibility for its Santa Parade to the Auckland Children's Christmas Parade Trust. Fortunately the Manukau City Shopping Centre, where another Farmers store was located, offered to cover some of the costs of erecting Santa. He subsequently graced their building each Christmas from 1991 to 1995.

In 1996 the shopping centre decided not to put Santa up because of his tatty appearance. Farmers, who still owned Santa, weren't sure that they wanted him either. After years of neglect he was in need of a serious refit. In 1998, following two years of negotiations, a marketing and events consultant, Stephen Hanford, purchased Santa from Farmers for $1. He called in favours from friends, companies and business associates to have Santa restored and returned to the people of Auckland. In all over 40 people contributed time, services or money. Among them was scaffolding expert Tony Webb, who had over 30 years' experience putting Santa up and taking him down. The restoration project was completed over a few months at Southdown Industrial Park in Penrose at a cost of about $40,000. The work undertaken included a paint job, removing rot from the fibreglass structure and rust from the supporting structure.

The restored Santa found a new home above Whitcoulls on Auckland's Queen Street. The company had offered financial support towards the costs of transporting Santa, getting him up and down from the building, and his storage. Further assistance came from Auckland City Council, and a number of companies and individuals who offered goods or services at ‘special Santa rates’. Whitcoulls continued to provide annual financial support for Santa and when Mr Hanford left to live in Australia in 2003 he subsequently handed over ownership to the company. But in December 2008 Whitcoulls declared that they could no longer absorb Santa’s costs, which had risen to $55,000, and gifted him to the city. This put the responsibility on ratepayers. Auckland CBD lobby group, Heart of the City, subsequently asked Aucklanders whether they wanted to foot the bill for Santa. Alex Swney, the CEO of the group, explained:

In December 2011 the Auckland Santa was branded the 'World's creepiest Christmas ornament' by the popular American website Read more here (NZ Herald)

After nearly six decades on Queen Street, the giant Santa was finally retired in January 2020. By this time the annual cost of his maintenance and storage was more than $200,000, and he required further restoration work. Heart of the City issued a statement on their website, saying that it was 'a fitting time for Santa to take a well-earned rest.'

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