The Herald reports
Auckland's famous Santa will not be back for Christmas.
Terry Gould, Heart of the City chairman, announced the news at the organisation annual general meeting in Auckland tonight
"We are going through a process of looking at each budget item line by line and adopting a measure of budget restraint until we get a full understanding of the financial information going forward.
"We've identified several areas where planned spending can be reviewed but we also feel this is a process which should be best carried out under the guards of the interim chief executive," Mr Gould said.
Heart of the City chief executive Alex Swney was sacked last week from the agency which he founded 20 years ago. It is largely funded by ratepayers and this year received $4.2 million dollars.
Mr Swney has denied 39 charges of tax evasion. Inland Revenue alleges tax of almost $1.8 million was unpaid, and a further $1.3 million is owed in penalties and interest. Some charges involve allegedly fictitious invoices.
Auckland Council chief executive Stephen Town has written a firmly-worded letter, requiring Heart of the City to confirm in writing that it has engaged forensic accountants to go through its books and to give a timeframe for that work and any other investigations.
He also wants details of the agency's financial position and cash-flows and is seeking clear assurances about its management processes.
Meanwhile over on Waiheke Island Santa is also under threat from the Waiheke Local Board. The current Board shouted loud and long that they would reintroduce the Santa Parade to Oneroa. That was before they were elected. Instead they retained the Christmas Festival, a street party for Oneroa, last year but organised it badly. Attendance was well down on the excellent event of the previous year. Now it looks likely they will vote at tonight’s Local Board meeting for a Christmas market at the Waiheke Library instead. No Santa Parade for the kids but lots of coffee and food stalls, a sort of grand Ostend market.
They’ve given themselves just over a month to organise this year’s Christmas Event which isn't long. They have $23000 in the kitty to spend on the event so let’s hope it’s better organised than last year. For that kind of ratepayers money it should be spectacular.