Split over Ashburton’s Christmas tree location

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The East Street chequerboard or Baring Square East? Opinions were divided evenly when Ashburton District Councillors on the town centre sub-committee discussed where Ashburton’s giant Christmas tree should be this year.

Crs Leen Braam and John Falloon want the tree to remain in Baring Square East, while Crs Carolyn Cameron and Angus McKay want it relocated.

The matter will be up for discussion by all councillors at their next meeting. However their wishes may be trumped by practicalities of moving the tree from the square, at least for this year.

The giant Christmas tree, which is officially lit up by mayor Neil Brown, has been in the square since 2017 and plays a starring role in council’s annual Light up the Night event. A special power connection in the square was installed for that express purpose and the tree lights up with the street lights daily over the festive season.

However, the square might be out of action in Christmas 2021 and 2022 while it is revamped to sit alongside council’s new library and civic building, which will be under construction this December.

Councillors were told yesterday there was no electricity at the chequerboard to power the tree and staff did not know if it would even fit there.

Full council will have the opportunity to further consider the tree’s location when the minutes of the town centre subcommittee are received at council’s September 24 meeting.
Another review could also be undertaken in January with feedback from staff, CBD retailers and the community for other location options in the future.

Cr Angus McKay said a Christmas tree on the chequerboard would attract more people to East Street, the CBD in general and to shops.
He said retailers were putting up with a lot as the CBD revitalisation progressed and it would be a good move to relocate it this year. The town centre needed to be livened up to attract people, who would buy food and goods.

Cr Cameron said retailers had asked for more Christmas ambience in the town centre and the chequerboard. The same request had been made last year.
Council did review the location of the tree earlier this year and decided to leave it in Baring Square East.

Cr Leen Braam said money had already been spent putting up the fairy lights on East Street and he was comfortable with the Christmas tree staying in the square for this year.
Cr John Falloon said he supported the tree staying in the square this year only because it seemed too late to move it, but the centre of town was a better location.

Moving the tree to a new location this year has not been budgeted for.

Council event co-ordinator Verity Jackson said Christmas flags would be hung in the town centre from November 6, taking the place of Mid Canterbury Open for Business signs.
There would be no banners across the road because fixings on the railway side of East Street had been removed by EA Networks as they were a health and safety hazard and there was nothing to hang the banners on that side.

The Night of Lights Festival will run from November 20 until January 6 and include a festive walk. Members of the Ashburton Art Gallery’s art addicts group are making special wraps for trees and newcomers groups have been invited to add decorations from their different cultures.

The Christmas tree is scheduled to be lit up on November 27, there will be buskers at various spots around the CBD on the night of December 3 and a family movie night is planned for December 11.