Arty Christmas horror scrapped

LORD Mayor Robert Doyle has backflipped on a move to install a $285,000 hi-tech Christmas tree in the middle of Melbourne.

Responding to community opposition to the 18m high yuletide decoration he wanted to plant in the City Square, Mr Doyle has decided instead to commission a more traditional tree at the same cost to ratepayers.

In July, the Sunday Herald Sun revealed a plan to erect the futuristic tree fitted with 10,000 LED lights, the capacity to stream sound and vision and display Christmas-related images on its translucent perspex branches and loudspeakers to blare Christmas carols.

Mr Doyle had hoped the tree would help put Melbourne on the world Christmas map.

But in a change of heart, he has decided to scrap the tree, designed with Melbourne artists, and instead turn the square, at the corner of Swanston and Collins streets, into an "urban forest".

In a column for the Sunday Herald Sun, Mr Doyle said he had listened to the people and decided against the hi-tech tree. "Everybody hated it: residents, visitors, businesses," he said. "No one thought it was a striking centrepiece for City Square." So he has decided to turn the City Square Christmas green instead.

"We will turn City Square into an urban forest. Up to 20 big, living hoop pines, native Australian trees that resemble a traditional Christmas tree, will be the central feature of the square," he said.

"There will be one huge tree as the centrepiece, elegantly lit and with a new star. "There will be green turf throughout the square (synthetic because of foot traffic) and many smaller trees and box hedges, all beautifully landscaped. "The City Square will become a green oasis. The base of each large tree will be a gift wrapped 'present'."

Despite his U-turn, Mr Doyle said the Town Hall would press ahead with a $2.6 million budget to shower visitors to the city with festive spirit.

New decorations including a nativity scene and mistletoe bridge will be installed, a Santa's house will be set up for photos, festive images will be projected on major buildings, the Town Hall will be wrapped like a gift and the council has commissioned a Christmas tram.


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