Auckland's Santa is in need of restoration work and is a challenge to move so his days are numbered. - Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly
After 60 years, Auckland's beloved five-storey-high 'creepy' Santa will head into retirement after one last festive season.
Along with two of his reindeer, the five-tonne structure has graced Queen Street most years since 1960, standing on the corner of the Farmers building.
Affectionately known as the creepiest seasonal icon to tower over Auckland, Mr Claus has lost movement in his beckoning index finger and his winking eye seized up about a decade ago.
It's time for him to put his feet up, said Santa's owner, business association Heart of the City.
"He's getting weary, he needs some work to restore him, and there are some challenges around storage. He's a very heavy structure, so there are challenges of putting him up and down. But we're very conscious that Santa has a very special place in people's hearts so this certainly hasn't been an easy decision," chief executive Viv Beck said.
Together with property company Mansons TCLM, Heart of the City spends about $200,000 a year to get Santa up and down, in and out of storage, and keep him looking as fresh as possible after 60 years of sun exposure.
His retirement was staved off a few years ago when Mansons and SkyCity put up money to keep St Nick watching over the street a little longer.
"It's a fairly major exercise. It's a couple of days to put him up and take him down, and even doing work on him needs a crane to get him into the workshop... we're hoping he can move into a relaxing retirement," Ms Beck said.
"It's one of those decisions where you really want to keep the tradition alive, but the reality of keeping the tradition alive is very challenging. There has been a lot of discussion around that, and we feel that now's the time, and give people the opportunity to share a lot of memories."
Whether it's tinkering away in a workshop way, way up north, or getting comfortable in the sand a little less far north, the location Santa's retirement is not yet known.
He will be erected for his swansong season shortly, and work will start to dismantle the structure on 10 January.