The five-tonne, 18m-tall Santa display decoration has been a part of Auckland’s holiday season for the past 60 years. Now, it has been moved to its new owner and has arrived at Wanaka's National Transport and Toy Museum.
The Santa was built with the ability to wink and move its finger, which was claimed to have been creepy. However the museum and new Santa owner, Jason Rhodes, felt the decoration had been unfairly labelled.
"I would like to know who maligned him to start with, because most people I know have enjoyed him for what he is. He's an iconic figure and he's got a smile on his face, trying to bring happiness to everyone around him. Why malign him?" Rhodes stated.
The fibreglass figure, made up of about a dozen pieces, was unloaded by Rhodes in a huge hole where he planned to extend the museum. Rhodes confirmed that the Santa would be assessed after Christmas and fibreglass repairs would be done on the figure over the summer. He also added that he had been in contact with various people who were in charge of maintaining the Santa back in Auckland in hopes to gather more information.
"It's the history behind him, right from the people that sort of instigated him, built him, and the ones that have saved him over the years. He's had a bit of a chequered history in the last few years. We just wanted to make sure he wasn't going to end up in some rubbish dump. What we're wanting to do is keep him for posterity. Maybe this time next year you'll all see it standing up and with a bit more of a smile," Rhodes said.
Rhodes bought the Santa from the Auckland Heart of the City organisation for only $1, where it originally cost $200,000 a year to maintain and store.
However upon arrival Rhodes noted that the mechanisms for the winking eye and moving finger were removed and was unsure whether those functions would be restored.