The issue of the lack of Christmas decorations in the shire’s major townships has resurfaced this year as the council election and the festive season approaches.
Mayor Jodie Owen has defended Cardinia Shire Council’s decision to refrain from spending money on Christmas street decorations after another candidate contesting a seat on council included the issue in her official candidate statement.
“Christmas decorations in Main Street are not funded by the council because if they were paid for in Pakenham, then they would need to be funded in every township in Cardinia Shire,” Ms Owen said.
“With rate capping, council’s changed. If we don’t make the hard decisions, we’d have to start cutting services.
“Pakenham has one of the largest carols in Victoria. Each year thousands attend this night, and not all families who attend are Christian.
“I think the majority of residents would support funding for child and maternal health, school crossing supervisors, youth services, senior services and of course numerous infrastructure programs over putting decorations up in each of our townships.
“It’s a shame that in a council election, this is becoming one of the main issues.”
Pakenham’s Mama Rosa Pizza owner Rosa Santo said she organised a Santa float with a horse and carriage every year for the enjoyment of children in the community during Christmas-time.
“We’ve done it every year for 12 years. It doesn’t matter what religion you are, it’s for everyone to enjoy,” Ms Santo said.
“For the last two or three years, the council hasn’t contributed to my Santa float.
Ms Santo recalled Pakenham’s Main Street being decorated during the Christmas season some 25 years ago.
“I remember us having a steel frame in the shape of a Christmas tree,” she said.
“Decorations would attract more people to the town. It would be nice to have Christmas lights and to make the street look like Christmas time for the kids.
“I have multicultural kids from different religious backgrounds come into my shop during Christmas time just to see my Christmas tree.”
Jeff’s Main Street Meats owner Jeff Gatt said he did not agree that street decorations would significantly affect business.
“Realistically, any kind of street decorations wouldn’t help my business. We put up our own decorations in the shop window,” Mr Gatt said.
“But I think we should get a Santa in Main Street handing out lollies. I think that would bring more people to Main Street during the Christmas season.”
Council candidate Vanessa Marie Van Gramberg, contesting for a Central Ward seat, listed the shire’s lack of Christmas decorations as a main election issue in her official candidate statement within the ballot pack material mailed out to voters.
“Christmas decorations may appear to not be a priority for some, however it is for many residents I’ve spoken to and also to some business owners,” Ms Van Gramberg said.
“Council should not ignore Christmas as it is the nation’s most significant cultural event. We do have Christmas Carols but that does nothing for the local streetscape and only lasts a few hours.
“Councils have to utilise ratepayer funds wisely and this is a wise investment in the local community and economy.”
Ms Van Gramberg said the council had approved two art sculptures for Main Street costing $80,000, but had refused Rosa Santo $300 towards her Christmas float this year.
“I would like to see a big Christmas tree in Pakenham,” she said.
“With concerns about crime, homelessness and the lack of local job opportunities, people want some joy and Christmas can uplift a community and bring it together.”
A Beaconsfield business lodged a petition with the council last year seeking Christmas decorations for the town.
But after consultation with businesses across the shire, the council received minimal interest from business groups and shop owners.
“Even the original business who lodged the petition didn’t respond to the council,” Ranges Ward councillor Brett Owen said.
“The only feedback we did receive was that it’s probably the role of businesses to decorate their shop fronts.
“If things have changed, maybe this is something the new council can revisit.”
A previous council report estimated that $150,000 to $200,000 would be required to provide Christmas decorations to all townships in the shire, including about $19,000 for banners on street poles in Pakenham’s Main Street that may need to be replaced after several years.
Originally published at Pakenham Officer News.