Communities across the Riverina are decking the halls for Christmas, but Wagga’s main street has been criticised for looking bare.
In Baylis Street the festive spirit is muted, with footpath decals that look like wrapping paper bearing the words “Wagga Christmas” and a few flags. At Victory Memorial Gardens, a $20,000 light display was put into a large pine tree, but council confirmed there would be no further decorations.
But in Griffith, banners line Banna Avenue and Christmas music is piped through speakers on the main street. In Leeton, a Christmas tree sits just off Pine Avenue while decorations and banners dot the central business district.
In a letter to the editor, Wagga woman Sue Leighton complained about the apparent lack of festive cheer.
“Come on Wagga City Council, lift your game and bring a bit of festive cheer to Baylis Street,” she wrote. “Look at the decorations in smaller towns in our area… they put our city to shame.”
Councillors were divided on the issue, with some suggesting it was a matter of balancing the books while others wanted to see more done in Baylis Street. Former mayor Rod Kendall said council was in the process of rebuilding its stock of Christmas decorations.
“To a large extent this is a joint responsibility, residents do suburban streets and council’s efforts largely concentrate on the CBD,” Cr Kendall said. “Even Christmas expenses need to be thought about… If the staff have spent their budget, it’s not their job to decide to spend more money.”
Likewise, Cr Dan Hayes said balancing the budget meant more decorations could have resulted in fewer events.
Outspoken councillor Paul Funnell said it seemed people had forgotten the reason for the season.
“Where’s the dressing up of the city?” Cr Funnell said. “Even West Wyalong can put up lights and banners that say ‘happy birthday Jesus’, we’ve got banners that say ‘Wagga Christmas’ – what does that even mean? Where’s the merry or the happy?”
Wagga Business Chamber general manager Anabel Williams said Ms Leighton’s criticism was valid.
“It shouldn’t just be up to shops to decorate the street,” she said. “More of a Christmas feel might encourage people to stay in town longer – they should set their budget and make it stretch as far as they can.”