Call to bring back Christmas in the Park

Christmas in the Park 2015. The event traditionally attracts up to more than 10,000 people.
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The district council should focus on bringing back Christmas in the Park, instead of wasting money holding its own Christmas event Light Up the Night, says an Ashburton event organiser, Carol Johns.

This year, Christmas in the Park will once again not go ahead, while the district council will stage its annual Light Up the Night after the event last year cost ratepayers about $48,000.

Light Up the Night involves counting down to lighting of the town’s giant Christmas tree on East St, alongside festive carols, performances, kids activity area, giveaways and food.

‘‘Bring back something that people do actually want to go to. To me, that ($48,000) is a huge amount, a waste of ratepayers money,’’ Johns said.

The district council has defended holding the event. It said about 3000 people attended last year, equating to a cost of just $15 per head, which was ‘‘well within’’ its own community events grant priority criteria.

Christmas in the Park, held by Ashburton Christian Ministers Association at the Ashburton Domain, attracts up to more than 10,000 people. The last one in 2019, which starred the Topp Twins alongside a wide range of local acts and spectacular fireworks, cost the association more than $25,000.

About 3000 people attended last year’s Light Up the Night.

In response to whether the district council should hold Christmas in the Park instead of Light Up the Night, district council group manager compliance and development Jane Donaldson said – ‘‘It’s not a case of one or the other’’.

‘‘Christmas in the Park was not held in 2017, with council stepping up to fill the void with its Light up the Night event, and has done ever since,’’ Donaldson said.

‘‘And because many families might be feeling the pinch this year with the cost of living crisis, it’s important to have certainty around at least one of these events,’’ she said.

‘‘Council has supported Christmas in the Park in the past through its grants and funding, and welcomes future applications from the organisers.’’

Funding of $4950 was granted from the Economic Development and Events Fund to the association for the 2016 Christmas in the Park event.

‘‘Council regularly stays connected with the Christmas in the Park organisers offering support. We are happy to share our knowledge and time with groups wanting to hold community events and can advise groups on grants available.’’

The Ashburton Courier reported in 2020 the Ashburton Christian Ministers Association had decided not to hold Christmas in the Park that year, citing costs as one of reasons.

This week association organising committee member Megan Roberts told The Ashburton Courier the event was then cancelled two years in a row, due to covid.

Roberts said the association decided two months ago not to hold Christmas in the Park this year, due to ‘‘a lot of factors we have to take into consideration’’.

She thought Johns’ suggestion of the district council working with the group to bring Christmas in the Park back was a good one.

‘‘It’s something that takes a lot of work and a big group of people to obviously make it happen, it does take a fair bit of funding,’’ Roberts said.

Johns spoke to a district council hearing last week, on its draft Economic Development Strategy, which has an objective to create an annual calendar of events.

Christmas in the Park 2016, which starred Dave Dobbyn.