Prajna installs Santa on the Farmers Building

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Auckland’s much-loved Santa and reindeer is 55 years old this year.

Prajna Singh, Senior Structural Engineer, managed Santa’s installation on the Farmers Building (previously known as the Whitcoulls building) at the corner of Queen and Victoria Streets in Auckland’s CBD.

Installing the huge Santa, two reindeer and presents on the side of a heritage building on one of the busiest streets in Auckland has its challenges. The fibre glass and steel structure weighs more than 4500kg and stands over 18 metres tall. Prajna Singh said “the surrounding roads were closed from Friday evening and we worked over the weekend to lock the pieces into place. It’s a massive jigsaw puzzle with the added complications that every piece needs to be checked and re-checked to ensure it’s secured safely to the building. On Friday night the Santa platform and boots go up, on Saturday morning Santa’s body and presents are craned into place and on Sunday the two reindeer are installed.

“We have at least 25 people on site making sure it all goes to plan. The building canopy has just been replaced by JAWA Structures Ltd as the design engineers, so the Santa project was its first real test of performance. We have a membrane waterproofing system on the canopy now, which needed to be protected from all the scaffolding in place so that it wasn’t compromised.

“Putting the reindeer up is always the challenging part as they have to be assembled from three separate pieces on the ground. They are then lifted into place with the feet being bolted on first and positioning the antlers separately. The reindeer are tricky as they have to be assembled very carefully with 100% accuracy to ensure the bolt eyes on the building and the feet platforms all line up.”

Santa was first put up on the corner of the Farmers department store on Hobson St in 1960 and remained there every Christmas for almost 30 years. When Farmers closed the store in 1990, Santa was moved to Manukau City Shopping Centre, where he remained until 1995, before he was retired and sold, in 1998, to businessman Stephen Hanford for $1. Santa then reappeared at his new home on the corner of Queen Street’s Whitcoulls Building after a $100,000 makeover with a much friendlier face. Last year Santa almost didn’t make it to his usual spot, until Mansons TCLM took on the challenge (and expense) of resurrecting him. Now Farmers is back in the same building that Santa is on; it’s been a full 360° journey.