A man calling himself the number one Santa in Auckland wants a special exemption to cross the border.
Neville Baker has been playing Santa, and managing a team of Santas, for years but, due to the uncertainty of lockdown, he wants the freedom to bring Christmas to other parts of the country where festive gatherings can take place.
Neville 'Santa' Baker tells Karyn Hay that normally at this time of year he’d be fully booked.
“I’d be beyond booked out, totally. Unfortunately, with Covid-19 in New Zealand we’re more cancelled out than booked out.”
He says there are a number of clients up and down the country for Baker’s Santas. Queenstown, in particular, requests the same person each year.
“They’re saying, what are we going to do? We can’t get that Santa, he’s fantastic, we’ve had him here for the last three Christmases and everybody looks forward to him coming back.”
So why should Santa, who’s perhaps not classed as an essential worker, be granted an exemption?
“That’s an interesting question. You know what Mrs Claus always says to me? ‘Where there’s a need you go and spread Christmas cheer’. That’s what it’s all about. It’s all the children that count. Nothing else matters.
“It’s the time of the year, it’s Christmas, it’s all about the children and who can be the character that brings that cheer to them? Santa.”
There’s promising precedent for Baker; last year just prior to Easter, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny were considered essential workers.
“If the Easter Bunny, and I remember the little chap, can get an exemption to bring all those Easter eggs and good times to the children at Easter, I think it’s far more important that Santa is there.
“Look, the country has been through the doldrums. Auckland more so than anywhere, but here we have the opportunity to put a bit of something back, to lift the spirits and get everybody where they should be.”
Baker says all the Santas have been vaccinated and Mrs Claus saw to it they had not one, but two shots.
“It’s all mapped out, on Christmas Eve, we’ve got the whole world to get around in 24 hours… everybody is waiting for Santa to drop the presents to the children. What’s he going to do if he’s stopped at the borders of Auckland?”
Baker stresses that Santa doesn’t just want to get out and spread cheer to children at malls and those who are tucked up in bed, but since the time of his grandfather Saint Nicholas, the priority has been children in need, and Santa is keen to get out and spread cheer to children in hospital and those who go without.
“You’re talking about Ronald McDonald House, you’re talking about special needs children. You can’t deny them that one little glimpse of hope… you can’t create that - that spirit, that’s what Santa represents and what he means to people.”