Monday, February 22, 2016

Give up on the Christmas tree

Geelong councillors are concerned about the exorbitant annual cost of the floating Christmas tree. Picture: Mitch Bear
GEELONG councillors were ready  to “can” the city’s floating Christmas tree at a recent council meeting because of its skyrocketing costs, it has been revealed.
Cr Jock Irvine told the Geelong Advertiser a majority of councillors were concerned about the exorbitant annual cost of the tree and few believed this cost would ever be offset by Mayor Darryn Lyons’ “half-baked proposal” for sponsorship.
“Originally it was $135,000, then it went to $340,000 and now it’s possibly $500,000 a year to pull a Christmas tree down, store it and reassemble it. In my mind that’s absolutely ridiculous, especially when he (the mayor) is talking about the pressure on council to be prudent with its finances,” Cr Irvine said.
Cr Jan Farrell, who holds the finance portfolio, said the cost of the floating Christmas tree could no longer be sustained by council.
“The only iconic thing about this tree is the lack of any rigour around its costs. It’s given a whole new dimension to the term ‘cost blowout’,” she said.
Geelong councillor Jan Farrell says Christmas tree costs are no longer sustainable.
“It beggars belief that council is now expected to fork out $500,000 annually to stick it on a barge and float it into the bay for only a few weeks each year. The tree only has a lifespan of five years. It’s two years old already. Let’s bring forward the funeral and save $1.5 million.
“The sponsorship idea is another smoke screen. One might say delusional.”
Cr Irvine said, contrary to assertions by Cr Lyons that Geelong businesses were keen to sponsor the Christmas tree, it appeared there had been no genuine interest expressed to date.
And Environment Minister and Bellarine MP Lisa Neville had clearly stated the State Government would not support corporate advertising on the waterfront, he said.
“From what I can gather, nobody so far has put their hand up to say they are willing to sponsor it at all ... while there’s plenty of rumour around about businesses wanting to sponsor it, nobody’s ever made any official approach that I’m aware of and I’ve actually asked that question of (council) officers,” Cr Irvine said.
He said he had intended to be in a voting bloc of councillors planning to vote down a motion to seek sponsorship for the tree — which would have effectively killed it off — but had changed his mind after lobbying from Deputy Mayor Bruce Harwood.
Cr Irvine said his vote to defer the debate on sponsorship of the tree until Cr Lyons returned had effectively kept the project alive a little longer.
“Deputy Mayor Bruce Harwood tried to encourage us to defer it off because he could see it was going to be defeated so it was out of respect for the mayor that we deferred it, or it would have been canned and he’d have no Christmas tree.
“The $500,000-ask is based on the hope and prayer that we are going to end up with sponsors that are going to subsidise this ... (but) we think that’s a pipedream, especially when we have the State Government saying they are not going to allow sponsorship on the waterfront and they are not about to change the laws. This just hasn’t been thought out properly.”
Cr Lyons slammed his fellow councillors on Thursday for deferring the Christmas tree vote. He said the floating Christmas tree had “taken Australia by storm” and Geelong now “owns Christmas”.


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