‘I’m sick of this’: Gympie’s $65k Christmas tree saga ends
THE long and colourful saga of Gympie’s $65,000 Christmas tree appears to finally be at an end – barring an unexpected twist.
Gympie councillors yesterday morning voted to finish the controversial project by approving the construction of a frame to surround the Nelson Reserve hoop pine in the festive season.
And some councillors were happy to have the tree – which drew the ire of some residents last year – capped off.
“I’m sick of this. Just get it done,” was how councillor Bob Fredman summed it up before moving that the council agree to finish the task.
“It’s a tragedy that a Christmas tree is a legacy issue.
“Let’s put it to bed.”
Councillors voted six to three to move forward, with an addendum that CEO Shane Gray can halt it if a review of the figures reveal the project had, in fact, blown its budget.
This question was raised by Mayor Glen Hartwig after staff confirmed the figures for the tree had been taken from the council finance system.
“We’re finding out every day that there may be some challenges with the numbers we have in there,” Mr Hartwig said.
“I know it seems insignificant but I’m concerned about our costings in relation to this.”
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Dan Stewart said it was possible but “even if some of the old figures were fudged, we’d still be under (the budget)” and urged the council to move on.
The tree was originally part of a $100,000 line item for Christmas decorations for the region in the council’s budget.
This was divided, with $35,000 being used for decorations; the remainder was earmarked for a living tree at Nelson Reserve.
The tree itself cost about $15,000.
A public vote was then held to decide how it would be decorated.
Unfortunately, the choice meant a metal frame was needed to support the lights – and by the time they arrived, it was too late to build everything before the holidays.
Nor could the lights be put on to the tree due to the sheer number and volume of them.
Instead the council was forced to use bud lighting.
The council also confirmed that the tree was much larger than those first inspected.
This was because its form was more suited to that of a regional Christmas tree, it was native to the area and was prepared for transplanting, making its survival more likely.
At a councillor workshop earlier this month Mr Hartwig questioned if bigger was better.
“The tree council purchased … it’s just about due to be logged, it’s that big,” he said.
“There could have been something more suited to community need and expectations.
“There’s so much about this tree that you scratch your head.”
But there was no doubt something needed to be done.
Council officer Luke Harriman told councillors at the workshop the old tree had become “like dust”.
“The … materials deteriorated to the point you couldn’t put it back together again,” he said.
Councillors had asked for other options to be presented, but at the end of the day the original idea won out.
Mr Hartwig, Dolly Jensen and Bruce Devereaux voted against finishing the tree as planned.