The Christmas decorations on the corner of Trafalgar and Hardy Sts in central Nelson. Photo: Kate Russell.

Controversial Christmas decorations to return


They have been compared to “faded tea towels”, “dirty washing” and “newspapers blowing in the wind”, but it doesn’t matter if you love them or loathe them because they’ll be back again for Christmas 2018.

Public opinion has been divided over Nelson City Council’s 2017 Christmas display.

After being accused of forgetting Christmas in 2016, last year mayor Rachel Reese said the council “wouldn’t be holding back”, with a very jolly budget of $100,000 to decorate the city.

$80,000 was spent on the decorations with the remainder on the installation – a budget that Rachel calls “modest” and allows them to build on projects for future years.

Mike Ward, along with “half a dozen” local artists, created the designs, which depict Nelson summer scenes with a theme of “hearts, flowers, love and generosity”.

It has now been confirmed that the decorations will be used again this Christmas, including the 178 banners for the central city, floral tree wraps, Civic House display windows, painted umbrellas and the cathedral tree.

A new theme will be created for the real Christmas tree that has now been removed from the Church Steps.

On the streets of Nelson, public views have been mixed.

Tahunanui man Albert Smithson says, considering the budget, he “expected something better” and described the church steps tree as a “sorry sight”.

“When I first saw them there were only a couple of tea towel objects. Every year some residents spend hours putting decorations on their properties, but council did very little.”

“As for the rather dead-looking tree draped with a sash, words fail me.”

Brenda-Lee Cole also likened the banners to something you’d dry your dishes with.

“I don’t like them at all. I remember back when I was younger they use to have heaps of cool Christmas decorations in the streets and in the trees, and that’s what I miss.”

Justine Ella Perkins says she quite liked the “quirky artful Alice in Wonderland feel” of the decorations – but more were needed.

“They looked great but a bit sparse around the perimeter of the city centre – and maybe in different mediums with the idea stretched into a more Christmassy feel.”

But local woman Sarah Clare Burnett says she liked that they were “nice and simple” and “not too over the top”.

Fenton Russell also like the “unique nature” of the decorations and that they celebrated a summer Christmas.

“Who the heck needs more tinsel – why would you want the same decorations as everyone else? I’m glad they are different.”

The mayor says they received both positive and negative feedback on the decorations, which is to be expected “when there is an artistic element to a project”.

She admits there “were a few teething problems” with the hanging banners that will be addressed.

This included some of them becoming tangled in high winds, resulting in council having to take them down and add weights to the bottom.

A public-designed Christmas tree competition for the church steps was also canned, with a smaller version of the preferred design by Lee Woodman displayed in the cathedral instead.

And, although Rachel’s personal preference would have been for a “more vibrant red” in the banners, she thinks the decorations were a “massive improvement on the dreary lot we’d inherited from previous years”.

“They had a summery, Nelson feel to them that reflected what Christmas is really like in our part of the world,” she says.

“Just like I prefer to purchase my Christmas gifts locally, my preference is that council purchases locally wherever. We’d welcome sponsors and I encourage anyone interested to contact us early in the year.”

Nelsonians can expect to see the decorations hanging around until the end of the month, before they reappear in December.